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More investments needed for improved water and sanitation

BY: Elcy Gladys Agyeiwaa
library photo
library photo

Water, they say, is life and it is said to connect every aspect of life.

However, access to safe and clean water and sanitation is a challenge to many people in the country.

Close to six million people representing about 22 per cent of the population in Ghana are estimated to rely on surface water to meet their daily water needs, leaving them vulnerable to water-related illness and disease.

About five million Ghanaians are said to still use water from unsafe sources.

It is also estimated that about 67 per cent of Ghanaians also lack access to improved sanitation or are entirely without toilet facilities.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) about 4,000 Ghanaian children die each year from diarrhoea, and about 23 per cent of Ghanaian children suffer from stunting (chronic malnutrition linked to poor water and sanitation).

In addition, the activities of illegal mining are also contaminating the water bodies with dangerous chemicals, making water bodies unsafe for use.

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Most of the households also do not have the needed funds to invest in the infrastructure to provide for themselves access to safe water and better sanitation.

When it comes to sanitation, one in every five Ghanaians have no access to a toilet and defecate in the open, with open defecation rates over 70 per cent in northern Ghana, reflecting significant national inequalities.

Interventions

In spite of the challenges, various governments, development partners and non-governmental organisations have embarked on projects and invested heavily in interventions to ensure that people have access to improved water and sanitation facilities.

According to the UNICEF, Ghana has made significant progress providing access to improved water sources to 80 per cent of the population.

One of such projects which has helped to improve water sources and sanitation in recent times is the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area Sanitation and Water Project (GAMA-SWP) which seeks to provide water and toilets for low income people within the Accra Metropolis.

The GAMA-SWP was initiated by the Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources and the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) as a means of ensuring that every household in the city acquires a toilet facility.

The objective of the project is to promote a clean and healthy environment.

The project is supported by the World Bank and is executed in collaboration with AMA.
Under the project, the cost of a toilet structure is pegged at GH¢1,100 for a concrete block toilet and GH¢600 for an aluminum structure.

The government, therefore, pays 70 per cent of the construction cost for the toilet facility while households bear the remaining 30 per cent under the project.

The Coordinator of the GAMA project, Mr George Asiedu, in a recent interaction with the media, is reported to have said that about 19,917 household toilets had so far been constructed in the GAMA and 255 toilets provided for schools within the defined area.

Additionally, he said a 255-kilometre pipeline had been laid for low-income people within the GAMA, while 5,143 new service connections for water had been completed to serve about 370,000 people within the area.

Non-governmental organisations, development partners, churches and other philanthropists have also over the years contributed their quota in these areas to improve the access to safe water to many rural communities through the provision of wells and boreholes and improved sanitation.

In spite of these strides, more investments are needed by the government in the area of water and sanitation to ensure that everyone has access to affordable, safe water and decent toilet facilities.

While more education is needed on sanitation, the various laws and bye-laws on sanitation should be effectively enforced by the local assemblies to promote clean environment.

Water and sanitation problems cannot be wiped out by only the government but it will be solved forever when everyone comes on board and contributes their quota in attaining that goal.

The writer is a student of the Ghana Institute of Journalism.