Categorized | National News

Bahamas, Caribbean Challenged To Improve Sanitation

As regional leaders in the Caribbean are in The Bahamas discuss ways to conserve and provide access to clean water to more people in the region, health experts say discussions on these countries’ sanitation practices should not be left out.

More than 300 water and wastewater professionals and related entities are in The Bahamas attending the Caribbean Water and Wastewater Association’s (CWWA) 21st conference and exhibition to discuss ways to better conserve, manage and provide clean water through the Caribbean.

But, Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) and World Health Organisation (WHO) Representative Dr. Gerry Eijkemans said if any real progress is to be made, then talks about sanitation must also be included.

“Countries like St. Lucia, Jamaica, Guyana and Suriname reported access to improved sanitation below 85 per cent,” she said. “Haiti reported 17 per cent access to improved sanitation.”

“A UNICEF report shows us a Jamaica with better coverage in rural sanitation than in urban sanitation. Urbanisation, particularly unplanned urbanisation – which comes with poor access to basic services, squatting and poverty, presents a challenge for public health.”

She continued, “I can tell you that many dengue outbreaks in the Caribbean coincide with periods of water scarcity and are located in the urban poor, where community members store water in containers giving the mosquitoes a five star hotel to establish breeding grounds.”

It was just last year that The Bahamas had a dengue fever outbreak that killed a number of Bahamians and made thousands more sick.

Government officials rushed to put in place a number of measures to rid the country of those deadly mosquitoes.

But, according to Dr. Eijkemans, outbreaks like these are just a part of nature and challenged countries like The Bahamas to tackle those other issues that lead to sanitation problems, like poverty.

“How will we address the needs of the have-nots? This population in terms of public health lives at risk and requires of a holistic approach to tackle the social determinants of health. Obviously the poor do not only lack water and sanitation, they also do not have access to quality housing, good education, good health services and accessible healthy food.”

“And the pockets of poverty and exclusion, including those related to legal and illegal migration, pose not only a threat for those persons themselves, but also for the communities and islands as a whole. An outbreak of cholera or dengue can severely impact tourism, the main source of income for many of the Caribbean islands.”

Dr. Eijkemans added that the Caribbean region’s vulnerability to natural disasters, particularly hurricanes and tropical storms that cause extensive flood and wind damage could also play a crucial factor.

“Floods in particular, resulting in potential water contamination, are of regional concern particularly with predictions of climate change and global warming exacerbating these problems,” she said.

The CWWA conference ends on Friday.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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