Rural villagers decry lack of toilets

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By Neo Kolane 

Lack of access to proper sanitation facilities, especially latrines, is giving the villagers of Ha Rankomo in Mantsonyane in the Thaba-Tseka district sleepless nights as they fear exposure to serious health risks.

And this is against the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Number Six that aims to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

The SDG6 states that water and sanitation are critical to the health of people and the planet. Goal Number Six not only addresses the issues relating to drinking water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), but also the quality and sustainability of water resources worldwide.

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Improvements in drinking water, sanitation and hygiene are essential for progress in other areas of development too, such as nutrition, education, health and gender equality.

The village that is 170km away from Maseru face a dilemma regarding the provision of adequate sanitation, especially for the poor, who constitute by far a greater proportion of the population.

The communities are left without dignity and exposed to a plethora of communicable diseases, compromising public health and safety,

It was in 2020 when there was a breakout of waterborne diseases in the area and a number of people were affected immensely because the villagers still practice open defecation.

This was confirmed by the councillor of the electoral division of Ha Toka, Setsebi Setsebi who said dwellers suffered a diarrhoea outbreak due to contaminated water.

However, when speaking on the matter, Setsebi said it is the entire electoral division that requires improved toilets for proper sanitation.

He said water is available but there are still people who draw water from unprotected and unhygienic wells.

“We go to the veld and hills when nature calls. There are no toilets to relieve ourselves in. We are still waiting for the donor who has promised to assist. The government authorities have been delivering empty promises,” Setsebi cried.

He added that water goes hand in hand with pit latrines but when taps were built in the area through the ministry of water, toilets were left out.

The chief of Ha Rankomo Tsepa Sentṧo related there are only two villages in the council of Dinizulu without pit latrines and Ha Rankomo is one of them.

The village was left behind at the time the toilets were being constructed in other villages in 2000.

Sentṧo said some residents are forced to walk some 30 minutes to get to the veld in order to answer to the call of nature.

Sentṧo said old people and women who go relieve themselves are afraid of being waylaid by the animal herders in the vicinity.

“Some decide to defecate where it is safe and convenient because travelling afar is a problem. The villagers have been pleading with the councillors who only respond with empty promises.

“In 2018 we were promised pit latrines by the minister of water, but up to now we have no pit latrines in Ha Rankomo, an old settlement that was built as back as 1918,” he said, adding that they are living a poor life as they cannot afford to erect some pit latrines.

The importance of toilets is that it is a dignified place compared to the open space.

One resident who is also a pre-school principal ‘Mathabelo Seqhibi confirmed the unavailability of pit latrines in the village.

Seqhibi regretted that sick residents find it hard to defecate safely as lack of proper sanitation grips the village of Ha Rankomo.

She said the poor state of affairs has also hit hard on the pupils at her school. They are forced to relieve themselves in open space.

At times the students go to a hill or behind people’s houses, triggering a wave of complaints from the owners.

According to the Centre for Disease Control, proper sanitation facilities (for example, toilets and latrines) “promote health because they allow people to dispose of their waste appropriately, preventing contamination of their environment and reducing risk to themselves and their neighbours.”

It said this week: “Throughout the world, many people do not have access to sanitation facilities, resulting in improper waste disposal that contain waste from human contact and ensure that waste is properly treated prior to environmental discharge and other risks.

“Absence of basic sanitation facilities can result in an unhealthy environment contaminated by human waste. Without proper sanitation facilities, waste from infected individuals can contaminate a community’s land and water, increasing the risk of infection for other individuals. Proper waste disposal can slow the infection cycle of many disease-causing agents.

“Contribute to the spread of many diseases and conditions that can cause widespread illness and death. Without proper sanitation facilities, people often have no choice but to live in and drink water from an environment contaminated with waste from infected individuals, thereby putting themselves at risk for future infection.

“Inadequate waste disposal drives the infection cycle of many bacteria and other germs that can be spread through contaminated soil, food, water, and insects such as flies,” centre for disease control says.