Saturday, January 18, 2014

Washrooms in Accra, a recipe for diseases

By Patrick Baidoo

Have you ever used some of the public washroom facilities in Accra, especially those in Madina, the OSA bus terminal near Tema station and the 37 lorry station?, If yes then I sympathise with you for the experience you had; and if not then I advise that you should never try to do so because they are too dangerous to your health.

Recently, I was at the Madina station to board a vehicle to Koforidua. I needed to attend to one of nature’s calls in a one of the washrooms to enable me have a free journey. I had the shock of my life when I saw the state of the washroom I was directed to.

I approached a woman sitting by the gate of a house and so I thought she might be living there but she asked me to go to a nearby washroom and upon paying 20 pesewas I was given the key to open the gate, I started imagining how the place would be looking like considering how narrow the gate was.

My guess was right. Upon opening the gate I had no option but to bang the door; the place was dirty with many days of urine and smelled very bad.  In-fact if I had entered, there would be no space to even turn myself and so I just returned the key and even refused to take back the money I had paid out of shock and anger.

I visited another place, and a third, but was compelled to use the third one as I had no option than to obey the call of nature. Afterwards I had to buy three sachets of water and soap to clean my hands and legs thoroughly to remove all traces of viruses and bacteria that might have come into contact with me in the process.

My investigation from bookmen at the station indicated that not less than 1,000 people go through that station from various parts of the country including Koforidua, the Akuapem Ridge, Ho and Kpando, as well as many parts of Accra and the Central Regions daily.

It is therefore important to note that moneys would be generated from tolls collected from the numerous passengers and traders who ply their trades every day at the station, yet the station cannot even boast of a decent public place of convenience.

My concern is that all the three washrooms at Madina and another one at the Kinbu station are being operated by private individuals who themselves were perching at corners to sell either food or something else to travellers and had taken advantage of the huge number of people and the fact that washrooms would be a hot cake to make additional money for themselves.

These operators are therefore not interested in the condition of the washrooms, their main concern is about the money and we do not need any scientific evidence to support this, considering the state of the washrooms where even common water could not be provided for clients who have paid 20 pessewas.

Health experts have noted that washrooms such as urinal and water closet toilets are avenues for infectious diseases that affect women in particular at a fast rate, especially when such facilities are not kept clean and disinfected regularly.

Public facilities of that nature require the utmost care and their cleanliness must be maintained to acceptable standard that users would be comfortable to use without contracting any disease. In this 21st century, access to such facilities that have a bearing on public health must be a matter of concern to all.

The Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) must take a serious look at the state of public washrooms in the metropolis, and measures enforced to improve sanitation in those facilities.

The AMA can operate the facilities in a more hygienic way and even charge 50 pesewa to off-set the cost of maintenance. In fact through this, the AMA could generate more revenue to provide other development projects for the people.

As a matter of fact, the situation of washrooms that pertain at the Madina station, Kinbu and 37 lorry stations, as well as many other bus terminals in Accra is a dent on the image of Ghana. It is not only Ghanaians who pass through those stations, but also foreigners from far and near.

If every lorry station, weather temporary or permanent is provided with hygienic water closet washrooms and kept properly, half of Accra’s sanitation problem would be solved because in the absence of such services, people would do their own thing anywhere.

Walls in Accra have been turned into urinals because of lack of that facility at vantage points. Even though that practice is not good we cannot blame those offenders.

The AMA is mandated by law to plan Accra, which has also been designated as a Millennium City. It is therefore the responsibility of the AMA to ensure that Accra is clean. In particular, Madina which is one of the largest suburbs of Accra, should be given a face-lift to a status befitting its name.

The Mayor of Accra should ensure that private persons are not allowed to operate such facilities to generate moneys for their pockets at the expense of people’s lives. The travellers/passengers, workers and traders at these stations are human beings and deserve a more decent treatment.

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