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World Toilet Day 2015: Achieving equality and dignity

Access to effective sanitation and toilet facilities is a basic human right. But it’s something we are yet to achieve globally, with one in three of the world’s population living without access to a functioning toilet. This World Toilet Day [19 November], we speak to Dr. Hubert Fleming, Anglo American’s global lead for water management, and take a brief look at a successful sanitation project in South Africa.

How important is access to good sanitation facilities?

Judge for yourself: According to findings from the World Bank, poor sanitation and hygiene lead to about 700,000 premature deaths annually. It also estimates that 443 million school days are lost every year due to water, sanitation and hygiene-related illnesses.

These alarming facts make it clear why sanitation is a global development priority – and why the United Nations General Assembly in 2013 designated 19 November as World Toilet Day.

In the following interview with Hu Fleming, global lead for water management, we find out how Anglo American is addressing this challenge.

AA: What is Anglo American’s approach to global sanitation issues?

HF: As a leading business in developing countries in southern Africa and South America, where a lack of sanitation facilities is prevalent, we are committed to improving health and welfare for both our employees and communities. Water, and access to proper toilet facilities, are highly critical to achieving this.

AA: How is Anglo American helping the situation?

HF: In the communities surrounding our operations, we actively evaluate sanitation facilities, such as wastewater treatment plants, as one way to support the local people, alongside providing drinking water, power and education.

In South Africa, we have developed projects taking municipal wastewater, treating it, and using it in our mining operations, thus avoiding a cost and discharge issue for the community. We are looking at similar projects all over the world, including municipal sewage management in Chile. We also support the construction of sewage treatment systems in many of our communities in South Africa.

As water management is a critical success factor for Anglo American, our other key projects involve providing drinking water to our workers and locals communities, as well as developing water sources for our operations which do not use, or compete with, local community water access. We have a goal of reusing all of our wastewater, so that we won’t need as much fresh water for operations, as well as not discharging any contaminants into the surrounding environment.

AA: What about sanitation access for those suffering with health issues, such as HIV/AIDS?

HF: For those living with HIV/AIDS, even more water is critical, often up to 100 litres per day. That’s because the risk of any type of infection is 6-10 times higher than those without HIV/AIDS due to the weakened immune system. Inappropriate sanitation is the leading cause of disease (via water borne pathogens) in those who live with HIV/AIDS.

As the incidence of HIV/AIDS is higher at some of our African sites, we reuse our own wastewater, minimise or eliminate use of community water, and provide safe drinking water.

Sanitation for all begins with awareness of basic human needs, and the far-reaching impact that lack of basic sanitation has on health issues and cost. Water-borne disease, via poor sanitation facilities, is the leading cause of death for children globally, and one of the top three for all people. Minimizing access to water-borne pathogens, via prevention, significantly decreases downstream health care costs.

We ensure access to sanitation by increasing awareness and assisting those in our communities with best practices in developing sanitation programmes and systems.

Supporting global sanitation goals

As Hu states, it’s important for us that the communities local to our operations are happy and healthy. And that means being able to access adequate toilet facilities.

That’s why our Zibulo mine in South Africa has invested R48 million [$3.5 million] in sanitation and waste collection for surrounding communities, specifically Ogies and Phola.

The pipeline transporting waste in the region lacked the capacity to cope with the population and leaks caused raw sewage to flow into residential areas. The entire sewage network has now been upgraded and doubled its existing capacity. That means around 37,000 community members now benefit from a safe and efficient sanitation system.

The Isibonelo Colliery is also in the final stages of a R25 million [$1.8 million] project that will significantly improve sanitation in two of its host communities. 

This type of action is key to achieving the goals World Toilet Day has set out. Be a part of the solution and join the conversation on Twitter using #WorldToiletDay.

Discover more about our approach to water management.

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