Children under-5 need access to water, sanitation : 1,755,443 Live in households without access to toilets
Data from the 2021 Population and Housing Census indicates that almost half a million (469,332) of Ghanaian children under five do not have access to improved drinking source (i.e. drinking water source that is likely to be protected from outside contamination).
Also, almost two million (1,755,443) live in households that do not have access to any household toilet.
A comparison of the 2010 and the 2021 censuses reveal that the number of children under five in households drinking from unhygienic water sources has declined in all regions except for the Northern and Savannah regions.
The Northern and Savannah regions rather recorded increases of 25,853 and 9,579 respectively.
Meanwhile, the number of children under five living in households without access to household toilet has reduced by almost a quarter of a million (242,830) in the last decade.
The United Nations in 2010 under Resolution 64/292 declared access to adequate sanitation as a universal human rights and a fundamental need.
The World Health Organisation (WHO), said an estimated five million children under the age of five years worldwide, died mostly from preventable and treatable causes in 2020.
The leading causes of death in children under five years include diarrhoea diseases among others, all of which can be prevented or treated with adequate interventions in health and sanitation.
Globally, the under five mortality rate fell to 37 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2020, while sub-Saharan Africa continued to have the highest rate at 74 deaths per 1,000 live births.
Between 1971 and 2020, the under five child mortality rate of Ghana has declined from 201.4 deaths per 1,000 live births to 44.7 deaths per 1,000 live births.
Studies have reported that children living in unsanitary and unhygienic environments may become undernourished even in the absence of diarrhoea or intestinal worms.
It has also been estimated that improved Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) practices may rescue up to 45 per cent of child deaths a year globally that are due to undernutrition.
However, the Sustainable Development Goal 3.2.1 aims to end preventable deaths of children under five to as low as 25 deaths per 1,000 live births in every country.
Sadly, at the current pace of improvement, the target of 25 per 1,000 is likely to be missed, according to UNICEF.
Therefore, World Toilet Day celebrated recently, offered a good time to reflect and not lose sight of the importance of not leaving the most susceptible group (children under five years) behind in our efforts.
As a result, there is the need to inject momentum into ongoing initiatives and interventions to strengthen water, sanitation and hygiene systems in the country, if the Sustainable Development Goal 3.2.1 is to be met by 2030.
The writer is an engineer and WASH Advocate