Water supply and sanitation

Namibia is the only country in Sub-Saharan Africa to provide water through municipal departments. The only bulk water supplier in Namibia is Nam Water, which sells it to the respective municipalities which in turn deliver it through their reticulation networks. In rural areas, the Directorate of Rural Water Supply in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry is in charge of drinking water supply.

The UN evaluated in 2011 that Namibia has improved its water access network significantly since independence in 1990. A large part of the population can not, however, make use of these resources due to the prohibitively high consumption cost and the long distance between residences and water points in rural areas. As a result, many Namibians prefer the traditional wells over the available water points far away.

Compared to the efforts made to improve access to safe water, Namibia is lagging behind in the provision of adequate sanitation. This includes 298 schools that have no toilet facilities. Over 50% of child deaths are related to lack of water, sanitation, or hygiene; 23% are due to diarrhea alone. The UN has identified a “sanitation crisis” in the country.

Apart from residences for upper and middle class households, sanitation is insufficient in most residential areas. Private flush toilets are too expensive for virtually all residents in townships due to their water consumption and installation cost. As a result, access to improved sanitation has not increased much since independence: In Namibia’s rural areas 13% of the population had more than basic sanitation, up from 8% in 1990. Many of Namibia’s inhabitants have to resort to “flying toilets”, plastic bags to defecate which after use are flung into the bush. The use of open areas close to residential land to urinate and defecate is very common and has been identified as a major health hazard.