BURKINA FASO: Sanitation shambles

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Salamata Sanou is one of the lucky few. Her squat, concrete house is surrounded by tarmac with wide channels to carry away rain water. Even at the height of the rainy season she can drive her motorbike up to the door and sleep soundly in the knowledge that she will not wake up to find her bed surrounded by sewage.
“I used to have to leave my motorbike at my neighbour’s house and wade home,” said Sanou, who lives in the Lafiabougou area of Burkina Faso’s second city, Bobo-Dioulasso.

Lafiabougou is one of the few districts in Bobo-Dioulasso to benefit from a sanitation programme started six months ago by the National Authority for Water and Sanitation (ONEA). “We have fewer mosquitoes now as there is less standing water and the floods don’t come,” added Sanou.
“Before the project, the toilets were always flooded and the filth just floated around in the street,” recalled Mariam Coulibaly, another resident. “We had about 80cm of water in the house and we had to make holes for the dirt and water to escape.”

Inadequate sanitation

“Bobo-Dioulasso has a serious sanitation problem because we only recently started working on it,” explained Arba Jules Ouedraogo, ONEA’s managing director of sanitation. “First we have to mobilise funds in Ouagadougou, the capital.”

Only 10 percent of Burkina Faso’s 13.7 million people have adequate sanitation, according to government statistics. The plan is to increase access to sanitation in Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso to 59 and 57 percent respectively, by 2015.
“The majority of people live with precarious and extremely poor sanitation that generates pollution and disease,” Ouedraogo said.
Plans for sanitation in Bobo-Dioulasso began only in 2000, when flooding resulted in industrial and household waste being carried on the tide of water. The town has an average annual rainfall of 1,200mm.
Then there is the River Houet, where numerous fish die because of toxic waste. “The River Houet is the natural collector of the liquid wastes from industries, households and also dirt from other rivers,” said Abdoulaye Traore, head of the sanitation department at the regional environment office at Bobo-Dioulasso.
“It is also a public latrine,” he added.

The worst-affected part of the city is the Dioulassoba district, next to the Houet. Solid and liquid waste flows past houses daily and when it floods whole communities are inundated.

Commune officials say they are tackling other districts before facing the “big” problem of Dioulassoba.
Poverty link

“We have great challenges in sanitation at Bobo-Dioulasso and Ouagadougou where we clearly see the link between poverty and sanitation,” said Mahamadi Porgo, a community leader. “We can easily see that medical bills are higher among those who live in a filthy environment.”

Studies conducted by the national environmental laboratory revealed that the water in the city wells is contaminated with bacteria. According to health officials, the upsurge in typhoid fever is linked to water pollution in peripheral districts. In 2005, there was a cholera outbreak in Ouagadougou.

“It is obvious that until the waste is treated, there will be health hazards,” Traore warned. Health department statistics show a rising number of bloody diarrhoea (shigellose) cases among children.

Building infrastructure

A 4 billion CFA franc (US$8.7 million) treatment station is under construction at Dogona, Bobo-Dioulasso, to collect all liquid waste from households, administrative and industrial units. The treated water is expected to be used for agriculture.

The government has also started subsidising latrines for households. Despite the state covering nearly 50 percent of the cost, the price – between 100,000 and 200,000 CFA francs ($200-$400) – remains high for the majority.
“Sanitation is very expensive but it is not a luxury, ONEA’s Ouedraogo said. “How can we have real development in our cities, when businessmen cannot sit down and talk because of the smell, refuse and pollution?”

Since 2003, Ouagadougou authorities have sought 8 billion CFA francs ($17.4 million) to build sanitation infrastructure to improve living conditions in districts of the capital.
“We have sent the request to donors and are still waiting,” explained Arzouma Zombre, head of infrastructure of the commune of Ouagadougou.
Every year Ouagadougou puts 20 percent (1.4 billion CFA francs) of its budget to sanitation. Even so, it can only send about half the 800 tonnes of rubbish produced daily to the new treatment station.
“The remaining waste gets dumped in the gutters and on unoccupied land, increasing the risk of contamination of underground water,” said Mahamadou Cisse, sanitation director in Ouagadougou.
“If we do not take adequate measures and start tackling the problem of sanitation now, we’ll pay more in the future,’’ warned ONEA’s Ouedraogo.

Source: IRIN