Sanitation in Namibia
Namibia suffers from a lack of sanitation, particularly in rural areas. Since 2006, the country has been working to improve sanitation levels through organizations that have provided increased access to facilities. In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, global sanitation and hygiene are more prominent than ever. How has sanitation in Namibia changed? How is the government responding to COVID-19? The following 10 facts detail how organizations and the government continue to fight for improved hygiene.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Namibia

  1. Sanitation and Health: Namibia has the lowest levels of sanitation coverage in southern Africa. Only 34 percent of the country’s population has access to improved sanitation facilities. That percentage drops to 14 percent in the country’s rural areas. The practice of open defecation, which occurs in 14 percent of urban areas and 77 percent of rural areas, increases the spread of diseases and majorly impacts general health.
  2. Hepatitis E: In Namibia, the practice of open defecation caused a Hepatitis E outbreak in 2017. Hepatitis E is a liver disease that commonly spreads through the ingestion of contaminated water. Starting in Windhoek, the disease spread to more than half of the country’s regions. The Community-Led Total Sanitation campaign emerged to eliminate Hepatitis E in Namibia. The campaign involves multiple organizations in efforts to improve access to sanitation facilities in informal settlements.
  3. Access to Sanitation Facilities: In March 2020, the city of Windhoek made an effort to increase access to sanitation facilities by installing a combined 25 toilets in the constituencies of Katutura and Khomasdal. Fransina Kahungu, mayor of Windhoek, promised the donation of another 40 sanitation facilities to other communities in the near future to continue improving sanitation in Namibia.
  4. Access to Clean Water: According to the most recent Namibian Population and Housing Census report, 80 percent of households have access to clean water but only 60 percent in rural populations have clean water access. In the 2019-20 annual report by the Ministry of Agriculture, the Directorate of Water Resource Management described the progress in making clean water more accessible. In the past year, the directorate oversaw the installment of nine hydrological stations and five boreholes. The directorate also monitored rivers to determine water quality. It also installed five cello instrumentations to monitor wastewater in Tses, Noordoewer, Blouputz, Rundu and Chobe Water Villas.
  5. Population and Sanitation: In 2018, 4.5 percent of rural populations migrated to cities in search of better social and economic options. This caused a high unemployment rate of 34 percent, and a lack of affordable housing created problems with access to clean water and sanitation facilities. The Community Land Information Program of Namibia estimated that 25 percent of the population lives in informal settlements, resulting in an increase of open defecation and Hepatitis E outbreaks.
  6. Sanitation in Schools: A Ministry of Education study in 2009 showed that 23 percent of schools in Namibia did not have sanitation facilities. More recently in 2018, another study found that nearly a quarter of schools still lacked toilets. UNICEF took note of this and implemented a program to help regions coordinate more access to sanitation facilities in schools. Approximately 19,000 students and 40 teachers received training in implementing sanitation efforts. By the end of 2018, open defecation in these areas had decreased from 52 percent to 25 percent.
  7. Menstrual Hygiene: According to the World Bank, at least 500 million women and girls around the world do not have access to proper facilities for menstrual hygiene management. This causes absenteeism in schools, resulting in girls missing school during their menstrual cycles. Namibia had its first Menstrual Hygiene Management Day in May 2018, where UNICEF helped mobilize policy support for menstrual hygiene management. The program that UNICEF implemented also created menstrual hygiene and management clubs in schools. These clubs aimed to eradicate stigma and address menstrual challenges. By including community involvement, the program created a lasting impact on the 38 schools focused on.
  8. Effects on Children: Consumption of contaminated water can cause children to become sick and malnourished. In 2015, 17 percent of children in Namibia suffered from diarrhea. Repeated episodes of diarrhea can result in childhood stunting, another common health problem in Namibia. A disparity between rural and urban populations also exists, with 20 percent of rural children suffering from diarrhea compared to 15 percent of urban children.
  9. Open Defecation-Free Namibia: Lack of sanitation and the practice of open defecation cause water contamination in Namibia. The communication strategy Open Defecation-Free Namibia emerged in 2014 with support from UNICEF and aims to raise awareness of the connection between sanitation and health. By using a mass media campaign, the strategy hopes to mobilize the public in Namibia to work with the government to decrease open defecation and increase sanitation in Namibia.
  10. Response to COVID-19: The pandemic has forced areas of Namibia to increase hygiene protocols, such as providing sanitation dispensers and stations at local retail and shopping centers. Workplaces have also taken precautionary measures to protect employees while public transit increases daily sanitation of buses. The office of the minister has encouraged public institutions to promote hygiene awareness, an issue now prevalent around the world. Namibia joined a global partnership in 2019, Sanitation and Water for All, to improve sanitation in Namibia with aid from other countries.

Sanitation in Namibia continues to be a problem in the country. Thankfully, organizations like UNICEF and the Community-Led Total Sanitation campaign are working to improve living conditions for the public. Through these programs and maintaining sanitation at the forefront of local government’s agendas, Namibia will see progress in the health and sanitation of its country.

Kiyomi Kishaba
Photo: Flickr