TOGO: Water crisis spreads to capital
Downtown Lome. Water no longer flows from taps in many residential areas of the city, forcing people to rely on unclean wells
LOME, 24 April 2007 (IRIN) - Constant shortage of piped water caused by dilapidated infrastructure in the Togolese capital has forced almost half a million residents to fetch their water from un-purified wells.
Only 51 percent of the country's 4.6 million population has access to safe drinking water, but the showcase capital of the impoverished country was at least relatively well served - until recently.
In Lome, where in some areas taps dried up two weeks ago, people are using ancient pumps and wells in schools and courtyards, or buying from those lucky enough to have a well in their property.
Togo's minister of water and hydraulic resources, Yao Florent Manganawe, told IRIN that two major water towers in Lome's suburbs, which normally pump water to the city’s 1.2 million people in the city, have broken down.
Manganawe said the country's main water supply plant, run by the national Togolese Water Company, has not undergone any repairs or maintenance since 1995.
Togo’s medical authorities have not reported any outbreaks of epidemics.
But Atsou Ocloo, a doctor in Lome, told IRIN that the well water could pose health risks.
"No one actually knows the chemical composition of underground water. Those who have wells and drillings in their houses should send the water sample to the hygienic laboratory for analysis, because as long as the water is not treated, it could contain germs very dangerous for pubic health,” he said.
"Ignorance about public health and not taking appropriate measures could put the public at risk of infectious disease," he added.
Water minister Manganawe said 30 billion CFA (US$ 62 million) is needed for the repair of the water supply pipes in Lome alone.
"We have been seeking [the money] for a long time to repair the water supply system. Right now, public demand has exceeded the water company's capacities", he said.
The minister also highlighted the urgent need for more wells to be drilled in Togo’s interior where he said thousands of people rely on unclean water sources, and are “constantly” at risk of contracting water-borne diseases.