A World Bank report has revealed that 19,000 lives are lost in Ghana annually through the effects of open defecation and its related poor sanitation diseases. This is because of the high rate of the menace as only one-fifth of the Ghanaian population has access to improved toilet facilities.
The World Bank’s report also said that Ghana’s economy loses a whopping US$79 million to bad sanitation practices.
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Michael Gyato, who is the Deputy Minister for Sanitation and Water Resource made it clear that “without proper sanitation, most people will fall sick and die out of poor sanitation-related diseases. Adding that “it is not worth it for Ghana to lose US$17 million to open defecation in this 21st century”.
Michael Gyato said these on behalf of the Vice President, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, at the opening ceremony of the Mole 28th Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Conference in Accra themed ‘Ghana’s Lower Middle Income Status Implementation for Sustainable WASH Delivery’.
Continuing, Mr. Gyato said that the NPP government values every pesewa in the country’s socio-economic development, and that Ghana will make sure that these preventable losses are avoidable; pointing out that “the only way to achieve this is to tackle the problem from all possible angles, especially by giving recognition to the economic value of water, sanitation and good hygiene practices.”
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To this end, he disclosed that the sector Ministry has taken measures to develop innovative strategies and plans that would help Ghanaians have access to safe drinking water and improved sanitation by 20130.
The Mole participants were therefore urged to support government to achieve its dream of clean and improved sanitation in the country.
The Director of Water at the Ministry of Water and Sanitation, Donnan Tay, who represented the Sector Minister, stated that over three million Ghanaians do not have access to portable drinking water. A large number source their drinking water from contaminated points, subsequently increasing the country’s disease burden.
He however stated that Ghana was able to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for water to some extent, but it missed MDGs for sanitation. He noted that about 90 percent of Ghanaians are said to have access to improved water, while only 15 percent of the total population have access to basic sanitation.
By these pointers, the sector Minister said it would be difficult for Ghana to achieve the goals of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on sanitation by 2030, should it fail to put in place practical measures to improve on sanitation.
The Water Director also pointed out that “Sanitation is not only about providing infrastructure and facilities, but helping people to change their attitudes and behaviors.
“Even though after managing to provide these facilities, sometimes even free of charge, there are people who will still refuse to use them. When you draw a financial support for households to the construction of facilities too, the issue of poverty and vulnerability also shows up.”
In the face of the health-threatening challenges that could make Ghana miss out in the SDGs on sanitation, the Director explained that his Ministry had sought help from experts to help develop a clear and workable strategy that would address the challenge.
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According to him, “an integrated strategy with an action plan, out of which a policy document has been drafted for Cabinets consideration, to establish a National Sanitation Authority (NSA) as indicated in the national budget statement”.
Finally, the Ministry would launch a strategy for water and sanitation to pave way for the establishment of a National Sanitation Fund (NSF).
The issue of open defecation is one of the old time problems that has bedeviled the Ghanaian society for generations. The practice is so old and rampant that it is a normal way of life for a great percentage of the country’s population, especially in the Northern parts of Ghana where household toilet facilities are considered completely NOT necessary!
This widespread practice of wrongful waste disposal, brought about by unavailability of basic sanitary facilities, has led to gross environmental pollution in the country. Despite various measures previously taken to curb the situation, no significant progress has been recorded.
Meanwhile, government has commenced a clampdown on those who defecate openly or dispose sewage and solid waste wrongfully by arresting, fining or prosecuting them depending on the gravity of the offence.
Landlords in some parts of the country have also been give a three month ultimatum ending in December to build toilets for their houses if they have none or risk having such houses shut down.