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‘Make issues of sanitation a priority’

BY: Doreen Andoh

The Vice Chancellor of the University of Energy and Natural Resources, Professor Esi Awuah, has said that Ghana is at the moment indirectly practising open defecation at a 100 percentage level.

While agreeing that nearly over 5.7 million Ghanaians directly defecated openly per the 2013 Multi-Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS), she said the improper manner in which collected and stored faecal matter was disposed of was similar in nature to defecating in the open.

Professor Awuah said currently all faecal matter properly collected and stored by way of diverse sewage systems were disposed of untreated into local water bodies.

“Both direct and indirect open defecation have serious implications on health, sanitation and the environment and, therefore, require the urgent attention of the government and other stakeholders.

Treatment of faecal matter 

Professor Awuah made these observations in a public lecture that was held to mark the 35th anniversary of World Vision Ghana in Accra last Tuesday. She said the practise of dumping untreated faecal matter into water bodies had the same implication on the environment as defecating in the open.

The public lecture was on the theme; “Addressing the sanitation challenges in Ghana: defining the future. It was organised by the World Vision Ghana, a non- governmental organisation (NGO) pursuing integrated community interventions in water and sanitation, health, education, food security, among others, in collaboration with the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD).

As part of efforts to improve sanitation in Ghana, she pushed for policymakers to ensure that faecal matter that was collected was properly treated before being disposed of even as Ghana was working to meet the Millennium Development Goal ( MDG) 7, which requires governments to have their populations divided in equal proportions between those with access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015.

Professor Awuah said Ghana had all the requisite policies and laws on sanitation necessary to facilitate a healthy environment but lacked an effective and efficient implementation regime.

“With proper implementation of policy, Ghana could attain the MDG 7 in one year,” she said.

She further recommended to government to provide the Ghana Police Service with powers to enforce laws on sanitation and prosecute those who broke them.

Ghana is off-track on MDG 7

The Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Mr Julius Debra, expressed his worry over the slow pace of progress with regard to sanitation in the country in spite of interventions by the government and other interest groups.

According to him, while Ghana was on track to achieve the MDG on water, it was completely off the mark with the MDG on sanitation, given the timelines that were set. All the MDGs are expected to be achieved by the end of 2015.

The 2013 Joint Monitoring Platform Survey report indicate that while 86 per cent of the Ghanaian population have access to improved water supply services, only 14 per cent have access to basic sanitation arrangement includig (household latrines). 

Sanitation has become a developmental issue

Mr Debrah said the problem posed by improper sanitation nationwide should no longer be viewed only as a public health issue but also as a developmental one.

 “This is why the government through the MLGRD has decided to make sanitation a top priority in the national development strategy. We have to admit that no strategy for poverty reduction and socio-economic development can ignore vital requirements like water, sanitation and hygiene,” he said.

Sanitation Campaign launched 

A sanitation advocacy campaign initiated by World Vision Ghana, dubbed, “Improve Sanitation Now” was launched as part of its 35th anniversary celebrations. The campaign was also World Vision’s contribution to the national fight against poor sanitation.