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Venaani takes open defecation issue to parliament

Ppopular Democratic Movement (PDM) president McHenry Venaani is taking the issue of open defacation in Namibia to parliament, urging fellow lawmakers to address poor sanitation countrywide.

Venaani recently gave notice of a motion to discuss the matter. He said the World Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund’s (Unicef’s) Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) 2020 data indicates that Namibia ranks sixth in terms of the highest rate of open defecation in the world at 47%.

“Less than half of the country’s 2,5 million citizens use facilities that safely separate waste from human contact, while some 5% use inadequate facilities such as open pits, buckets and hanging latrines,” Venaani said.

He said Namibia’s sanitation coverage is in sharp contrast to the rest of southern Africa, with rates of open defecation at over five times greater than those of neighbouring countries Botswana and Zambia, as well as twice as high as those of Angola.

“These conditions put Namibians, especially children, at risk of deadly faecal-oral diseases and infections that cause diarrhoea, the second-biggest killer of under-fives in the country,” Venaani said.

The issue further exacerbates the prevalence of sanitation-related deficiencies such as malnutrition and stunted growth, he added.

Venaani called for this motion to be referred to a relevant parliamentary standing committee for further study and feedback.

In April, The Namibian reported that at least 43% of Namibians use river beds, plastic bags or containers to dispose of human waste.

Basic census mapping reports for 2019 to 2021 indicate that 23% of these Namibians are from urban areas, while 65% live in rural areas.

Rachel Odede, Unicef’s representative in Namibia, in April said the country faces a sanitation challenge mostly in rural areas, yet in the Khomas region 21% of residents practise open defecation.

Odede at the time took part in the Samora Machel and Moses //Garoëb constituencies celebrating being free of open defecation.

“With the inevitable rapid influx of people leaving rural areas in search of a better life, local authorities cannot keep up with the demand of providing basic services,” she said.

“For the past four years the Samora Machel community has taken up the important call to stop the practice of open defecation, and 1 052 households have become free of open defecation through community-led total sanitation programmes,” she said.

European Union (EU) ambassador Sinikka Antila at the same event said open defecation also reduces dignity and respect.

“Everyone has the right to use clean and safe toilets without fear, shame or embarrassment,” she said.

Antila said the EU is in support of eradicating open defecation and improving access to safe and sustainable sanitation.

In Namibia the EU has provided a grant of roughly N$7 million to improve sanitation at the informal settlements of 10 towns.