Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Ghana’s poor sanitation conditions kill children every 15 seconds

A section of invited school children to commemorate 2013 world toilet day
By Nathaniel Y. Yankson

Available statistics suggest that every one gram of human faeces contain ten million viruses with one million bacteria. Hence Ghana’s inability to stamp out open defecation and dispose waste in a proper manner is leading to the death of a child in the country every fifteen seconds.

Alarmingly, reports from UNICEF indicate that 82,000 children as a result of improper sanitary conditions die in the country before they celebrate their 5th year birthday due to diarrhoea and pneumonia.

Diarrhoea is reported as the second most common disease, which kills young children in developing countries every 15 seconds.

In Ghana alone, out of one million children that are born, 82, 000 die before they attain the age of five years from the diarrhoea disease. This has been attributed to poor sanitation and hygiene.

Thus, Commemorating this year’s World Toilet Day on the theme: “An Open Defecation Free Ghana in My Lifetime”, people from the grassroots including school children, opinion leaders, traditional rulers and development partners gathered in Accra recently to consolidate efforts in ending the menace.

Statistically, there are 18 countries in sub-Saharan Africa where less than a quarter of the population uses adequate sanitation.

“In fact, in total there are 600 million people 70 percent of sub-Saharan Africa that are still without access to a toilet. Every day, they face the inhumanity and danger of having to go to the bush to shit,” according to WaterAid Ghana.

Of those lacking sanitation, 228,479,500 practice open defecation and in total, 39,341,106,934 (over 39 billion) hours are spent on just finding a place to shit.

Deputy Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Alhaj Baba Jamal, who spoke on behalf of the sector minister, Akwasi Opong-Fosu noted that the theme for the occasion was not only appropriate but timely enough since “we have only two years towards attaining the MDG target on sanitation.”

He called on religious and opinion leaders, the private sector and traditional authorities to join hands in assisting government to address the problem of open defecation in the country.

He further charged metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs) to equally make sanitation a priority in their respective zones because to him, sanitation was a cross cutting issue, which affected all facets of a country’s development.

“It has become apparent that indiscipline and poor attitudes are the factors that greatly hamper our efforts at riding our communities of filth. I wish to call on our development partners and the private sector to continue to invest more in the sector,” Alhaj Jamal mentioned.

Two more regions, he continued have been added to the Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) programme. An intention of government to scale up the programme to all the ten regions in the country to ensure the needed impact was achieved in those communities.

“The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development with support and collaboration with development partners and other key stakeholders has put in place the required institutional, policy and legal/investment frameworks to address this development setback.”

These include capacity building for the various environmental health and sanitation departments within the assemblies to facilitate the implementation of sanitation programmes across Ghana.

Factsheet

The decision to mark World Toilet Day on November 19 each year was to help the United Nations raise awareness and mobilize action, which could save millions of human lives.

Indications are that 2.5 billion people living in the world lack toilets and poor sanitation and this has led to diseases and child deaths.

The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution which charged all member states and relevant stakeholders to encourage behavioural change and the implementation of policies to increase access to sanitation among the poor and also to end the practice of open defecation.

At a meeting with some journalists from the Ghana Watsan Journalists Network (GWJN) ahead of the World Toilet Day, WaterAid’s Country Representative in Ghana, Dr. Afia Zakiya stated that more than 21 million of the citizenry, representing 87 per cent of Ghana’s population still did not have access to adequate sanitation.

“Poor sanitation impacts public health in many ways. Some of the most disturbing is the impact of poor sanitation on child health. Two of the most pressing issues are malnutrition and stunting. The ripple effect goes on to affect educational achievements and general wellness. Poor sanitation also has special impact on the well being of girls and women,” she emphasized.

She, moreover, urged the Ghanaian media to help divert public attention from politics to water and sanitation issues, believing that it would compel the people in authority to focus on the needs of attaining the universal access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).

Dr. Afia Zakiya further described as very frustrating and disappointing instances where people tend not to care about their surroundings, particularly with the huge investments by donors and non-governmental organisations to ensure sustainable environments.

With the several campaign platforms and awareness creation for attitudinal change, people still expect the same donors and organisations to clean their mess without any commitment on their part.

Dr. Zakiya felt terrible that the things, which include by-laws, aimed at regulating improper disposal of human faeces, open defecation and throwing of garbage in gutters and unauthorised locations were inefficient and “too weak”.

She expressed “I feel terrible. I feel it’s a disgrace that things are there that can help the sanitation crisis being resolved and they are not being enforced.”

Diversely, Dr. Zakiya argued that though it seemed frustrating, “you have to understand the reasons behind it before you pass judgment. It could be socio-cultural beliefs” as well instances where there are no such facilities.

Policy Manager at the WaterAid Ghana office, Chaka Uzondu also called on the public to minimize the exposition of faecal waste since they were harmful to human survival in the environment.

To him, the Community Led-Total Sanitation (CLTS) required structural transformation to enable communities, access their rights to adequate and clean water.

He also advocated for more funding towards the execution of sanitation and hygiene projects in the country while making every level of production transparent.

1 comment:

  1. It's really sad knowing that many died just because of poor hygiene or poor sanitation. We have to be very keen when it comes to cleanliness especially to ourselves..This is one of the only ways to live longer, i think if not died through accident. Please be mindful with your health.

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