Last Monday, Ghana joined the 139 member states of the United Nations (UN) to celebrate World Toilet Day which falls on November 19, every year.
The Mirror brings you a report on the state of toilet facilities in some parts of the country as well as progress and challenges in Ghana’s efforts to end open defecation.
From Sunyani, Emmanuel Adu-Gyamerah & Biiya Mukusah Ali, report that the patronage of few public places of convenience in some suburbs within the Sunyani township is rife as residents without toilets facilities in the homes queue up, especially in the mornings, to attend to the call of nature.
Though these old public toilets facilities are deplorable and poorly managed, residents have no alternative but make do with them.
The foul scent that hits you as you approach alone makes you wonder how people who patronise these toilets and those who stay nearby manage to contain the odour.
It is unbelievable that many households in areas such as Sunyani Zongo and New Town do not have toilets and residents have to rely on public toilets.
When The Mirror visited the public toilet at the Chiraa Station on World Toilet Day, it came out that patrons are suffering as they use this dilapidated toilet.
Here, if the user prefers to use a newsprint, he or she pays 30 pesewas but those who prefer to use a piece of toilet roll provided by the caretakers pay 50 pesewas.
The pressure on this toilet is unimaginable as it is used by drivers, passengers, traders at both the Chiraa Station and a section of the market women at the main Sunyani market, as well as people from parts of the Zongo.
A trader, who spoke to The Mirror, said she wondered why those who operated the cesspit emptier had to wait till morning to do their work.
“Nobody can breathe here when the truck is here to carry the faecal matter. Why will they not perform such a function during the night when nobody is here?” he questioned.
Another trader, Madam Felicia Fofie, accused the caretakers of neglecting their responsibility of cleaning the facility, saying that in some cases, the faecal waste spilt over and left a pungent smell to commuters and traders.
Madam Fofie appealed to authorities of the Sunyani Municipal Assembly to enact a bye-law to make it compulsory for all landlords to construct a toilet facility in their houses to reduce the pressure on the few public toilet facilities in the town.
“Landlord without toilets facilities in their house should be sanctioned. Until that is done, we will continue to witness this type of public toilet facilities in Sunyani”, she stated.
A caretaker at the Chiraa public toilet disclosed that there was pressure on the toilet because there were few toilet facilities in households in the area.
“We are working hard to keep the facility clean. We clean the facility five times in a day, but due to the pressure, the place is always in a mess.”
Tema Manhean in the Tema metropolis recently recorded a sudden increase in the number of deaths, reports Benjamin Xornam Glover.
While some community members associated the deaths to spiritual causes, leading to a fetish priest directing members of the community to take spiritual baths in the sea to cleanse themselves, the Ministry of Health and the Ghana Health Service, after an investigation into the deaths, listed the causes as lifestyle related.
This, indeed, brings to the fore the need to improve the sanitation situation in the community.
The community is predominantly a fishing community. Many households do not have toilet facilities and residents are forced to defecate openly in the sea.
Although the Tema Metropolitan Assembly (TMA) has made efforts to construct public toilets in the fishing communities to meet the needs of the increasing population, that has not stopped some members of the public from openly defecating at the beach.
A resident, Mr Joseph Quaye, in an interview with The Mirror, bemoaned the practice and said it was about time the populace desisted from that unhygienic practice, otherwise such illnesses and deaths could not be avoided.
Some fishermen at the beach who spoke to The Mirror admitted that they engaged in open defecation due to the convenience it offered.
They were, however, oblivious of the serious threat they posed to the health of citizens, as well as the fact that the practice was a major disincentive to the growth of the fishing industry that sustained them.
The Metropolitan Environmental Health Officer, Mr Wisdom Aditse, in an interview with The Mirror, said although the TMA had intensified the fight against open defecation, activities by some people, particularly hawkers, were hindering the effort to end the menace.
He said although Tema was a well-planned city, the activities of some squatters, especially along the Accra-Tema Motorway, as well as in the shanty communities at Tema Newtown, have turned their immediate surroundings into open places of convenience.
“We have a situation where people from elsewhere who come to the city to do business end up as culprits.
They wake up at dawn and go to obscure places to ease themselves. This is a major issue we are grappling with.
“Again, we have a number of houses which do not have toilets, but through the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area (GAMA) Sanitation and Water Project which is aimed at increasing access to improved sanitation, we are making some headway,” Mr Aditse stated.
Mr Aditse said the TMA had also embarked on a series of education, asking residents without household toilets to help stop open defecation.
He said a number of schools in the metropolis had benefitted from the GAMA project through the provision of toilet facilities and water supply to improve institutional sanitation.
On the issue of choked sewer lines which is a major problem in Tema in general, Mr Aditse said the Assembly had prioritised the maintenance and replacement of the lines to tackle the occasional sewer bursts.
He said the old sewer lines, made of pitch fibre, had come to the end of their life span and so the assembly was trying to replace the pipelines with PVC or HDP pipes which were very expensive.
In Accra, Charles Andoh reports that more than 14,000 households within the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area (GAMA) have been provided with toilet facilities.
Additionally, 30 schools within AMA have been provided with toilets as part of measures to end open defecation within GAMA.
This is under the GAMA Sanitation and Water Project (SWP) funded by the World Bank at a cost of $150 million.
The GAMA SWP Coordinator for AMA, Mr Graham Sarbah, disclosed this to The Mirror in an interview last (Wednesday).
The GAMA SWP for Ghana is a World Bank grant of $150 million to support the government of Ghana’s efforts to increase access to improved sanitation and water supply in the GAMA, with emphasis on low-income communities and to strengthen management of environmental sanitation in the GAMA.
The project has four components: provision of environmental sanitation and water supply services to priority low-income areas within the GAMA; improvement and expansion of the water distribution network in the GAMA; planning, improvement, and expansion of GAMA-wide environmental sanitation services; and institutional strengthening of municipal, metropolitan and national institutions.
Explaining how the toilet facilities were constructed for the various households, Mr Sarbah said beneficiaries were made to pay less than half of the price (GH¢1,100) while the remaining GH¢2,900 was covered by the project.
“We are supposed to construct 19,000 toilet facilities by 2020. But we hope to do more.
It is our hope that this will help reduce open defecation.
“This project alone cannot end open defecation. So there are other measures we are doing to do away with the menace,” he stated.
Mr Sarbah added that one of the phenomenon that encourages open defecation is the increase in squatters, so the city authorities was doing its best to discourage that.
World Toilet Day
The theme for this year’s World Toilet Day was “When nature calls,” and in Ghana, the focus was on how to halt the annual cholera outbreaks in parts of the country and the need to adopt appropriate means to deal with the situation.
The celebration, which was organised at Jamestown in Accra, placed emphasis on how to discharge liquid waste in a dignified manner without causing harm to individuals.
The durbar to mark the day was attended by the Accra Mayor, Mr Mohammed Adjei Sowah; some traditional leaders of the Ngleshie Alata Traditional Area, students of selected schools in the Jamestown area, as well as civil society organisations (CSOs) in the sanitation sector.
According to statistics, only 15 per cent of Ghanaians have access to improved toilets, and access to toilets has just increased by nine percentage points in the last 25 years.
About 35 per cent of urban dwellers in Ghana patronise public toilets, with 19 per cent of Ghana’s population defecate in the open.
Ghana currently ranks seventh worldwide and second in Africa for open defecation.
From the Central Region, Shirley Asiedu-Addo reports that about 13 per cent of the population in the region practice open defecation.
Many others who have and use toilets do not have decent facilities.
Many institutions, including schools, churches and other public places do not have decent places of conveniences.
In some suburbs, the situation gets worse. Many use the beaches and bushes as places of convenience.
Some residents of Moree in the Abura Asebu Kwamankese District of the Central Region also said there were not enough public toilets, while others said the state of the existing ones compelled them to use the beaches.
This year, the Central Regional Coordinating Council through the Community Development department with support from United Nations International Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF) held a durbar at Ajumako in the Central region to mark the celebration of the World Toilet day.
Twenty-six communities in the districts which have achieved Open Defecation Free (ODF) status were honoured.
Madam Kate Kwabo is one of the community leaders from Enyan Kwakokwa, one of the communities which was honoured for achieving open defecation.
She said the community was determined not to go back to the days of open defecation.
Some children in the Ajumako Enyan Essiam District who spoke to The Mirror, said they now understood the effects of properly using the toilet.
The Deputy Central Regional Minister, Mr Thomas Adjei Baffoe, in his address, said there was an urgent need to support efforts at curbing open defecation.
Ghana loses about $79 million annually to open defecation related problems.
He advised people to endeavour to use the toilets when they build them.
A Water and Sanitation Hygiene (WASH) officer of UNICEF, Mr Gabriel Adu-Wusu, said about 900 million people worldwide practiced open defecation.
About 70 per cent of the population in the Tamale Metropolis still practice open defecation (OD) as a result of lack of toilets in their homes, according to the Metro Environmental Health office.
The Tamale Metropolitan Assembly (TaMA) in February this year gave a four months ultimatum to all landlords who have no toilets in their homes to construct one with technical support from the assembly but most landlords have failed to comply.
The Environmental Specialist for the TaMA and Head of the Metro Environmental Health Unit, Mr Adam Wahab, told The Mirror in an interview that the directive issued by the assembly to all landlords in the metropolis to construct toilets in their homes elapsed in June this year but some landlords have still not complied.
He said during the period of the directives, over 2,000 household latrines were constructed but most homes did not have toilet facilities.
To halt the OD menace in the metropolis, Mr Wahab said the TaMA had constituted a taskforce to be deployed to enforce sanitation by-laws on the streets, communities and in all homes in the metropolis.
The taskforce is expected to work day and night to arrest and impose spot fines on people who defecate in the open as well as landlords who failed to construct toilet facilities in their homes after the end of the four-month moratorium declared by the assembly.
“Persons who would be found culpable and failed to pay the spot fine would be processed for court for prosecution.”
He said most of the sicknesses reported at health facilities in the metropolis are water and sanitation-related diseases such as cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery, typhoid and malaria.
The environmental health unit had decided to intensify its fight against OD through enforcing its revised sanitation by-laws, reports, Samuel Duodu, Tamale.