Via allAfrica.com, a September 5 Reuters report: West Africa: Could There Be a Positive Note to the Ebola Outbreak? Excerpt:
Could there be a plus side to the Ebola crisis gripping West Africa? Africa's ministers in charge of water seem to think so.
Although there is no data linking the Ebola outbreak with lack of access to clean water and sanitation, the epidemic should bring attention to Africa's water and sanitation problems and accelerate investments, said the African Minister's Council on Water (AMCOW), a body of government ministers from 53 member states.
"Sometimes it takes an outbreak for positive things to happen. Maybe it takes Ebola for sanitation and water to become a top priority. This is like a blessing in disguise: nobody wants it to happen, but you use it as a means to have more commitment and investment in water and sanitation," AMCOW executive secretary Bai-Mass Taal told Thomson Reuters Foundation on the sidelines of a global water conference in Stockholm.
The Ebola virus, which has killed 1,900 people in the current epidemic, spreads through contact with bodily fluids of an infected person, including sweat, blood and secretions. Like in cases of diarrhoeal diseases, which are attributed to contaminated water supply and insufficient sanitation, one of the measures to prevent Ebola is washing hands with soap.
In the countries affected by Ebola - Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Nigeria and Senegal - about 25 to 40 percent of people lack access to safe, clean water, protected from outside contamination and in particular faeces, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Even health centres treating Ebola patients might not have access to running water.
All of the Ebola-hit countries also practice open defecation, but the situation is most dire in Liberia, the country worst affected by Ebola, where only 17 percent of the population has access to toilets and almost one in two people defecates in the open.
Taal said the crisis might provide a key opportunity for a continent struggling to improve its water and sanitation facilities.