Inter Press Service
Alexis Kaboré, a resident of the suburb of Pissy in Burkina Faso's capital, Ouagadougou, is notconnected to the potable water network of the National Office of Water and Sanitation (Officenational de l'eau et de l'assainissement, ONEA): he simply can't afford to do so on his salary,even though the costs of the link have come down."My 30,000 CFA francs (about 60 dollars) a month do not permit me to pay for thisconnection," Kaboré told IPS.As a result, he may find himself making use of water from wells in Pissy: more than 1,000have been dug by hand in this area on the outskirts of Ouagadougou. The water they containis contaminated, however, by the waste deposited in nearby toilets -- or by excrement andother solid wastes."The construction of toilets in disadvantaged suburbs does not respect standards," saysTidiane Zougouri, director of the National Environment Laboratory (Laboratoire national del'environnement)."What happens is that people convert old -- and very deep -- wells and make toilets of them,"he notes, adding that this takes place even as neighbours are permitted to dig new wells.According to preventive medicine officials in the health ministry, wells are often built withinappropriate walls that enable them to be penetrated by water contaminated with parasitesand waste."When you do analyses, there is a migration of bacteria from the toilets of the neighbourtowards the hand dug wells in the next-door yard," notes Zougouri, pointing to high levels ofbacterial pollution in Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso, the second most important city ofBurkina Faso.This causes people in most towns to become ill often from waterborne diseases such asdiarrhea and dysentery."Something must be done because at the hospital most of the illnesses are waterborne, withmany cases of typhoid fever, diarrhea and cholera -- which show that the quality of waterleaves something to be desired in our country," Roger Tiendrébéogo, director of preventivemedicine in the health ministry, told IPS.He attributes the cholera epidemic of 2005 which affected the central region, includingOuagadougou, to poor water quality. Some 1,050 cases were recorded in this outbreak, whichalso claimed 16 lives.According to the 2006 Human Development Report, produced by the United NationsDevelopment Programme, latest figures indicate that 39 percent of Burkina Faso's populationdoes not have access to a suitable water source. Just 13 percent of Burkinabé are said to haveaccess to adequate sanitation facilities.Authorities try to make people aware of the dangers of poor sanitation, and also order theclosure of polluted wells when informed of their existence. However, the latest HumanDevelopment Report still points to a lack of effective national programmes to improve thesituation.The dearth of environmental planning with housing developments is an area of concern. "They(officials) develop the ground that is distributed to people, without drains; people are not evenshown how toilets should really be built," says Zougouri.Dams are also polluted by waste, as is the water table.ONEA subsidises the construction of toilets, for which the minimum cost is about 200 dollars,according to the income of clients: households must pay 70 to 80 percent of the amount.But, this is still beyond the reach of many. According to the Human Development Report, justover 27 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, on less than a dollar a day.In light of this, ONEA hopes to bring the contribution by households down to 50 percent.Authorities also want to ensure that sanitation is available to 70 percent of people living inOuagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso, and 50 to 55 percent of residents in other towns, by 2015-- and is holding talks with the African Development Bank for a project to help them attain thisgoal.The eight United Nations Millennium Development Goals -- agreed on by world leaders in 2000-- include halving the number of people without access to safe drinking water and basicsanitation by 2015.
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