Windhoek-Swapo Member of Parliament, who is also international relations deputy minister, Maureen Hinda has called for an end to open defecation, saying it is essential to human development.
She called on Namibians, especially men to champion the importance of access to dignified sanitation facilities to all.
Hinda was contributing to the debate on a motion “poor sanitation, hygiene and lack of access to decent sanitation facilities in most of our underprivileged communities”. She said it is common that women and children place a higher value on water and sanitation.
“With all due respect to our male parliamentarians and all men out there that are not in this category, it is important that our men improve their appreciation of their privacy when it comes to open defecation,” Hinda told fellow MPs.
“It talks to self-respect and dignity, let alone hygiene. It is indeed difficult to shake hands with men. You understand what I mean. I know it is traditionally not an easy topic to talk about but the problem is persisting. We need the support of men to build and use toilets,” she told fellow MPs.
She said it is widely reported that Namibia has the highest level of open defecation in Southern Africa and a call “from this house, mainly if ego by our male colleagues will go a long way”.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) targets reduce open defecation by 25 percent in Namibia.
She revealed that Namibia has cover 30 percent of public schools without waterborne sanitation and are thus unlikely to have water available for hand washing near toilets.
She said she hopes the next financial year’s budget would consider that.
Hinda said there is a need for accelerated interventions, as an assessment by UNICEF found that at the current rate, all school in Namibia would only have adequate toilet facilities for pupils by 2039.
She added that spending on sanitation is thus not sufficient and she supports the call for a strategic budget for this sector as propagated by the sanitary strategy.
According to her, women are further impacted by lack of water and sanitation because in many cases they are responsible for the care of children, who are affected by diseases such as diarrhoea.
She noted that these disparities have additional implications for health, education and human rights.
“When human waste – be it urine or feces – is not managed well, it pollutes water, food and soil with germs and leads to diarrhoea and other serious health problems. Using toilets prevents germs from getting into the environment and protects the health of the whole community,” she said.
However, she said it is not entirely government’s responsibility to build toilets or provide dignified sanitation but government has the obligation to facilitate increased provision of safe and dignified sanitation.
She said there is need to look at policy provisions to promote the use of toilets even by passing laws to punish open defecation where it can be avoided.
She encouraged micro-lenders like Build Together and National Housing Enterprises to provide loans to build toilets in the communities.