The minister of Health and Social Welfare on Friday said the government of President Yahya Jammeh would adopt offensive disposition to eradicate the menace of open defecation in the country.
Omar Sey who spoke during the launch of a pronouncement to end open defecation in The Gambia by 2017 held at Dalagass Village in Central River Region said the new initiative will ensure proper sanitation and hygiene.
Sey: “The Gambia government recognises that poor sanitation undermines a country's social and economic development and has serious health impacts on the population. The government through the Ministries of Health and Social Welfare, and Environment, Forestry and Wildlife will fast-track the progress of sanitation to eliminate open defecation and bring better health and dignity to the people.”
He noted that the country had registered significant results in reducing open defecation as the rate now stands at 2 per cent. He said The Gambia is the first country in Africa to perfect plans towards ending open defecation.
Earlier, the Unicef country representative, Sara Beysolow Nyanti, said for too long, the subject of open defecation has been surrounded by silence.
She said: “Too often, basic sanitation is viewed as simply an outcome of other development efforts. Yet, experience has shown that sanitation and sound hygiene are critical drivers of development—helping to secure good health, save lives and liberate people to pursue their potentials. Unfortunately, today, 2.5 billion people worldwide do not have access to improved sanitation and 1 billion people still defecate in the open. We need to change that reality and break the vicious cycle of disease and poverty.
“In the last few years, The Gambia has made great progress in reducing open defecation in the rural area to 4 percent, and 2 percent nationally (JMP 2014). However, in some regions, the rates of open defecation are worrying. The majority of the population practicing open defecation lives in the Central River Region (Kuntaur: 13.6 percent and Janjanbureh: 8:2 percent LGAs) and north bank (Kerewan LGA: 4.4 percent). These regions also have the highest under five mortality and malnutrition rates, both of which are closely linked to poor sanitation.
“The Gambia has done extremely well in this area and cannot be compared to other countries that have up to 30 percent or 40 percent of their population still openly defecating. Although a great achievement for The Gambia, having low open defecation rates however pose a challenge. When you have done well, it is very hard to reach the last mile. It is always the most difficult. But with solid and committed partnerships, The Gambia can actually achieve ODF status by the end of 2016, making the pronouncement of his Excellency a reality in action.”
Pa Ousman Jarju, the minister of Environment said they have integrated sanitation in the water sector, and have in place the current rural water supply sanitation project being implemented by the Department of Water Resources in partnership with the Department of Health. He said 50 latrines which is part of a planned 1,000 latrines to be built throughout the country have been constructed to eradicate open defecation in public places, particularly markets.