SEATTLE — In the past quarter-century, the percentage of the Togolese population with access to safer water sources has been steadily increasing from less than 50 percent in 1990 to 63.1 percent in 2015. Despite this improvement, water quality in Togo is still relatively poor. A large number of people in the West African country remain unable to obtain water safe for consumption.
Particularly in rural areas, the population suffers from health complications due to a lack of access to clean drinking water sources and sanitation. The national government, as well as numerous international actors, are working to improve the situation.
According to 2015 UNICEF data, the situation is a notably better in urban than in rural areas. While 91 percent of the urban population use drinking water from improved sources, 44 percent have similar access in the countryside. That means that the majority of the rural population obtains water from unimproved sources like surface waters. Additionally, many rural women must walk long distances to collect unsafe and polluted drinking water.
Three percent of the rural population uses improved sanitation facilities. A 2014 report on the water situation in Togo stated that defecation in the open, including in water sources, is still common in the country.
The international campaign End Water Poverty has reported that the effects of climate change have led to an intensification of the problem in the southern part of the country in recent years. Rising sea levels have made more water sources unsafe for consumption.
Unsafe drinking water and inadequate sanitation is conducive to the transmission of infectious diseases, including diarrhea, cholera and dysentery. Consuming infested water can also lead to schistosomiasis, an “acute and chronic disease caused by parasitic worms.” The World Health Organization (WHO) states that many health impacts related to water can be countered by education, as simple measures can have large results. For example, covering household water containers reduces their risk of becoming breeding grounds for insects carrying diseases and their likelihood of fecal contamination.
According to WHO statistics, Togo had 2,377 deaths from diarrhea in 2012 due to problems with water, sanitation and hygiene. One percent of the population filtered or boiled their household water, and 14 percent washed their hands after potential contact with excreta, showing that in addition to improving the water quality in Togo itself, hygiene education is an important step in reducing water-related diseases.
In 2014, a Sanitation and Water For All (SWA) meeting was convened in Washington, D.C. by UNICEF and the World Bank. A total of 55 SWA partner countries attended. The Togolese government made six commitments aimed at solving the country’s water and sanitation issues, including political prioritization and increased funding for clean water provisions. The government also promised to take steps to eliminate open defecation and build an effective central information system between all ministries and structures related to water and sanitation provision. The last official update on the progress of these commitments published by the SWA in 2015 stated that Togo had made slow progress with three, and good progress with two of the commitments.
In addition to the efforts of the Togolese government, numerous international NGOs have been working on improving the water quality on both larger and on smaller scales. For example, in 2011, UNICEF reached half a million people with sanitization efforts and the distribution of chlorine tablets. The French NGO AFD, the organization Water and Sanitation for Africa and the Peace Corps have all conducted efforts targeting the water conditions in Togo. The government has received funding from the World Bank as well as from the Islamic Development Bank, and the EU has financed several programs to educate government employees and increase clean water access.
With the increased governmental efforts in the capital of Lomé as well as attention and action from international actors, improved water quality in Togo can be expected in coming years.
– Lena Riebl