Posts Tagged ‘clean water’

As part of ongoing efforts to improve worldwide health, in particular in poor and underserved areas, Global Handwashing Day was held on October 15th.

Tanzania was one of 100 countries worldwide to participate in the event, which aims to bring awareness to the necessity of this often neglected (or poorly understood), but highly effective practice in reducing the spread of disease.

Over 200 million people worldwide participated in events and education programs related to Global Handwashing Day.

Especially in poor areas where access to clean water and adequate sanitation may be limited, the importance of thorough handwashing with soap and water is critical. Studies have shown that even with unclean water, washing with soap greatly reduces the spread of illness. Studies have also shown that even in countries where the average standard of living is high, and the link between human feces and disease is well understood, individuals often neglect to wash their hands.

WaterAid (formerly WaterCan) was one of the most prominent NGOs participating in the worldwide event. The group, which focuses on improving access to clean water and safe sanitation worldwide, considers the event an integral part of their annual efforts.

Past efforts by WaterAid to draw attention to clean water issues and to raise funds to help improve access have included awareness walks, philanthropic gala events, and worldwide adventure trips that double as fundraisers (including a Kilimanjaro trek with Thomson Safaris).

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The World Health Organization (WHO) has emphasized time and again how important access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation is to both poverty eradication and overall health in developing nations. A long-term program currently underway in Tanzania—Usafi wa Mazingira Tanzania (UMATA), financed by the Global Sanitation Fund (GSF)—is working to address continuing sanitation issues throughout the country.

Centered on the Dodoma region, specifically the Bahi, Chamwino and Kongwa districts, UMATA is currently undertaking a baseline survey to determine the current state of sanitation in the region.

According to a recent joint WHO/UNICEF report, around 2.4 billion people worldwide—over one-third the global population—will still lack access to improved sanitation facilities in 2015 (improved sanitation facilities are defined as systems that keeps human waste effectively and safely separated from human contact). Currently around 1 billion people still rely on open defecation, with essentially no access to basic sanitation facilities.

pit latrinePit latrines, like this one, can rapidly spread disease.
Photo: Wikipedia

 

These startling statistics are sadly relevant in modern-day Tanzania. According to the Chamwino District Medical Officer, Dr. James Charles, 40-60% of the diseases they treat are caused by poor sanitation and hygiene practices. The WHO has found that up to 70% of the diseases in Tanzania can be directly attributed to poor access to safe water and/or hygienic sanitation facilities.

Charles and other prominent Tanzanian officials believe the GSF grant (which totals $5 million over five years, from 2012-2017) will go a long way towards reducing those numbers.

Improved sanitation would not only impact health outcomes of Tanzanians, it would significantly impact the economy and educational prospects for children, especially girls. Illnesses caused by poor sanitation keep students—particularly the poorest students—out of school for long stretches, often resulting in death, particularly in very young children. Schools often lack private and/or hygienic facilities for girls, which often results in their being unable to continue their education. Moreover, women still fill traditional roles, including household management. Due to inadequate water access, women—and their daughters—often spend hours every day finding and retrieving safe (or less than safe) water, a task which keeps girls from attending school regularly.

Improved school facilities—such as those built by Thomson Safaris’ partner organization Focus on Tanzanian Communities (FoTZC)—can help remedy this problem, but larger-scale efforts, like the UMATA program, are needed in order to see country-wide health improvements.

The GSF grant is focusing on the Dodoma region, selected because it is one of the poorest and least-served in the country. Once the baseline survey, currently underway, is completed, the program will move on to improving facilities, access, and health education in the targeted districts.

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