Winning the fight against filth - the role of faith-based organisations

BY: Timothy Ngnenbe
Rev. Maxwell K.K. Liwangol (in suit) leads the way to clear piles of refuse at Old Fadama
Rev. Maxwell K.K. Liwangol (in suit) leads the way to clear piles of refuse at Old Fadama

Last Saturday (August 4), members of the Evangelical Church of Ghana (ECG) hanged their suits at home and combed the Old Fadama slum at Agbogbloshie in Accra to rid the area of filth.

Led by the incoming General Overseer of the church, Rev. Maxwell K.K. Liwangol, the about 200 participants who were armed with rakes, shovels, brooms and other tools de-silted gutters that were pregnant with all manner of filth – solid, liquid and plastic waste.

During the exercise, which started at about 6 a.m. from the Konkomba Yam Market, members of the church cleared chunks of refuse from other parts of the slum community such as Galloway, the Agbogbloshie market, as well as Sikkens and the Old Fadama Police Stations areas.

The workers from the waste management department of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) had a hell of time as they struggled to clear the waste that had heaped on the shoulders of the road.

 A section of the members of the Evangelical Church of Ghana (ECG) de-silting choked gutters at Old Fadama


Two heavy-duty refuse trucks and tricycles were deployed to evacuate the waste from the slum community for proper disposal.

According to Rev. Liwangol, the move was to help achieve the target by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to make Accra the cleanest city in Africa by 2020.

Clean Ghana

Since the President made that declaration in April 2017, a number of interventions have been made, including the allocation of GH₵200 million to the newly created Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources (MSWR) in the 2018 budget to tackle insanitary conditions in the country.

Also, a national sanitation campaign dubbed "Let's Clean Ghana" has been launched by the MSWR, while efforts have been made to deploy sanitation brigades to Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) to help rid the country of filth.

The AMA in particular has also stepped up efforts to tackle the sanitation challenge with the revamping of sanitation courts, enforcement of sanitation laws leading to the arrest and sanctioning of hundreds of offenders, as well as engagement with the Environmental Service Providers Association (ESPA) to devise innovative waste management regimes.

Some members of Evangelical Church of Ghana (ECG), clear the waste that had heaped on the shoulders of the road

The AMA has also made frantic efforts to close down illegal landfill sites that had sprang up across the metropolis.

Some landfill sites that have been closed down included those at the Korle Lagoon Ecological Restoration Project (KLERP), Glefe, Okponglo), Adedemkpo, Mallam and Tunga, all within the jurisdiction of the city authority.

The battle rages on

Despite these efforts that are being made by the MSWR and the AMA to tackle the sanitation challenge head on, it is crystal clear that more work has to be done if the war against filth is to be won.

Many parts of the capital city are still engulfed in filth because people continue to litter the environment with impunity, while sanctions have not been robustly enforced.

Market centers such as Agbogbloshie, Kaneshie, Kantamanto, as well as slum communities in the capital city are still riddled with filth, giving clear signs that the fight to rid the country of filth is far from over.

Some members of Evangelical Church of Ghana (ECG), clear the waste that had heaped on the shoulders of the road

In some slum and coastal communities including Chorkor, Sodom and Gomorrah and parts of Jamestown, people defecate in the open and along the beaches.

This situation is worrying, especially when the country is doing poorly in terms of access to good sanitation services.

For instance, as of 2017, national figures in the Water Sanitation and Health (WASH) sector showed that 20.2 per cent of the urban population had access to improved sanitation, while only 8.6 per cent of the rural population has improved sanitation services, giving a national average of 14.9 per cent.

The figures further show that 91.4 per cent of the rural population has unimproved sanitation services with that of the urban population pegged at 79.8 per cent.

With the current situation, it is obvious that Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Three and Six, on access to good health and wellbeing, as well as quality water and sanitation services will be nothing but a mirage. This is because the insanitary conditions and poor waste management exposes people to health risks and affect their wellbeing.

FBOs

It is in the light of the above that it has become imperative for all stakeholders to get involved to educate members of the public to change their attitude towards the environment.

One of such key stakeholders is Faith-Based Organisations(FBOs) – Christians, Muslims and others who form more than 90 per cent of the national population.

As of March, 2018, the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) estimated that Ghana’s population had hit 29.6 million, up from the 24.5 million recorded during the 2010 Population and Housing Census.

The country’s demographic profile shows that Christians constitute 71.2 per cent of the population, while Muslims and traditionalists make up 17.6 per cent and 5.2 per cent respectively.

What this mean is that Ghana’s religious population is 94 per cent of the national population translating into about 27.8 million people.

A Global Attitude Survey conducted by Washington –based Pew Research Centre ranked Ghana among top eight most religious countries in the World.

According to the survey, more than 90 per cent of Ghanaians who were sampled said their religion is very important in their daily lives.

The above scenario shows that religion and for that matter FBOs have a critical role to play in shaping the attitude of people and putting the country on the right path of national development.

The two main religions in Ghana – Christianity and Islam, abhors filth and enjoins people profess faith in them to live clean and pure lifestyle to glorify the maker.

Way forward

The time has come for strategic partnerships with these FBOs so that they can use their platforms to preach the gospel of environmental protection and good sanitation practices.

If religious leaders take up the challenge to use part of their time with the creator to educate the congregation on the need to protect the environment both as a civic responsibility and as a duty to God, the desired attitudinal change could be achieved.

The incoming General Overseer of the ECG hit the nail on the head when he said: “as Christians, we owe it a duty to protect the environment because it is an instruction from God for man to take control over his creation. We should not only focus on the spiritual aspect of our members because the spiritual self lives in a healthy body; and we can only stay healthy when we keep our environment clean.”

It is about time the government reached out to FBOs to chart a common path in the fight against sanitation.

This calls for a national dialogue with the leaders of the FBOs to set the tone for effective collaborations with other stakeholders in the WASH sector to help tackle filth holistically.