By Sharon Kavhu
Windhoek - At least three million people are at risk of contracting waterborne and water related diseases such as diarrhoea, cholera and malaria across the Southern African region, The Southern Times has learnt.
According to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretariat, following the cyclones that severely affected people in Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe and the Comoros, the population at risk was in need of clean water, proper sanitation and medical support.
“Access to healthcare has been disrupted as more than 50 health facilities were destroyed by the cyclones. The lack of access due to damaged road infrastructure and flooded areas impeded the provision of assistance to the affected communities,” said SADC Deputy Executive Eecretary for Regional Integration, Thembinkosi Mhlongo.
“Due to the severe and devastating impacts of the mentioned cyclones, about three million people require immediate humanitarian assistance, including food, shelter, clothing, potable water, sanitation and medical support, considering the threat for cholera and other diarrheal infections, malaria and water borne and water related diseases,” he said.
The effects of the cyclones on water and sanitation in SADC comes at a time where the region is already having limited access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities which are key in the health and hygiene of the people.
According to the SADC Secretariat, out of the over 300million SADC population, approximately 60 percent has access to safe drinking water while approximately 40 percent has access to sanitation facilities.
Mhlongo said the undesirable record of limited access to safe water and sanitation in the region was a serious constraint on the regional efforts to roll-out water and sanitation infrastructure service.
He, however, noted that the Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan and supporting strategies that the region had put in place were aiming at turning around the state of affairs, targeting to increase access levels to at least 75 percent for both safe drinking water and sanitation.
“The SADC Water Sector Regional Strategic Action Plan (RSAP) Phase IV 2016-2020 is the implementation plan for the water component of the revised Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP). The RSAP IV focus is on water infrastructure development to enhance water security and increase resilience against climate variability and change. The RSAP IV will come to an end in 2020, we therefore request your guidance and continuous support in designing the RSAP V. This will increase our capacity to store water resources to mitigate effects of dry seasons,” said Mhlongo.
The regional bloc is also hopeful that the initiative of SADC through the current Chairperson and Namibian President Hage Geingob to launch an appeal of US$323 million aimed at targeting 2 802 million people and 2 789 million in need will also be part of the solutions to the undesirable living conditions that came after the cyclones.