By Dikeledi Magadzi
During the month of October, the Department of Water and Sanitation embarked on the annual programme to highlight the importance of hand hygiene with its Global Handwashing campaign. South Africans were encouraged to wash hands with soap and water to prevent many life-threatening infections and diseases affecting both children and adults.
It is a known fact that our hands are a vehicle to transport illnesses or diseases, particularly when they have become contaminated with disease-causing bacteria and viruses.
On November 19, the department will promote hygienic sanitation practises by commemorating World Toilet Day. We will create and enhance awareness on hygienic sanitation systems and host a dialogue to inspire actions towards accelerating access to adequate and dignified sanitation.
The department is committed to make sustainable sanitation a reality for all, in line with the ideals of the country’s National Development Plan, and (in) adherence to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, SDG-6. This has been proven by the large strides taken in eradicating sanitation backlogs with households that have improved access to sanitation here in South Africa.
In 1996 only 49% of households had decent sanitation systems but this has improved drastically up to 2021 when it increased to 84,1%. About 61% of these households use water to flush their toilets which are connected to the Wastewater Treatment Works.
Despite these achievements, some households are still using bucket toilets post the commencement of the Bucket Eradication Programme introduced in 2013 by government to rid the country of the usage of that dreaded system.
About 2.8 million households are still without access to adequate sanitation, including 179 470 households that practice open defaecation, and this remains unacceptable.
Following the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SGD 6) by the international community, especially by developing countries, South Africa has not only embraced the goal but has translated it into concrete actions to make a meaningful impact on the lives of its people.
At the core of the department’s delivery of its mandate, is an effort to restore people’s dignity by improving sanitation systems within communities. In doing so, the SDG target 6.2 on Sanitation and Hygiene that highlights the need for equitable sanitation and hygiene for all, and to end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations, will be met by 2030. This is also supported by the country’s National Development Plan that states that there should be access to sanitation to all by 2030.
The Department of Water and Sanitation is working tirelessly with municipalities to prioritise the eradication of bucket toilets. There are comprehensive long-term water and sanitation plans to improve infrastructure to enhance service delivery to communities.
Communities need to live by the mantra that we proclaim “Water is life, Sanitation is dignity”, and they can do so only if the requisite services are delivered by the department of water and sanitation and the sector broadly.
* Dikeledi Magadzi is Deputy Minister of Water and Sanitation