In just two years it will be time for reckoning, when countries belonging to the United Nations gather to compare notes on how they have fared in 25 years since they set targets for themselves with respect to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 1990.
Although Ghana has chalked tremendous progress in some of the eight areas of the development goals including MDG 7, Target 7c, which is to: “Halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking-water and basic sanitation”, whereas it has already surpassed its target of 78% for water, the country has failed woefully in increasing access to improved sanitation.
Crawling at a snail’s pace of one percentage point increase each year, access to improved sanitation in Ghana is now at 15% according to the latest Multi Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) report released few days ago.
This means only 15 out of 100 Ghanaians now have access to improved sanitation, which is 39% short of Ghana’s sanitation MDG target of 54% that expires in 2015.
To further compound Ghana’s unenviable sanitation status, the open defecation rate in Ghana has now increased from 19 per hundred Ghanaians to 23 per 100, according to the MICS report.
In effect, the number of Ghanaians practicing open defecation daily has increased from 4.8 million to over 5.7 million. What’s more, with the country’s current population of 24.97 million according to latest census figures, the actual number of those practicing open defecation daily is now 5,743,100.
Further, if available figures from Ghana’s Statistical Service Authority and the World Bank are anything to go by, then Ghana is currently losing annually US$ 627.2 million (US$ 627, 200, 000) of its GDP of 39.2 billion as at 2011, to inadequate sanitation. That is if the country is still losing 1.6% of its gross domestic product to poor sanitation as available statistics suggest.
It is not all gloom though, as the number of Ghanaians using shared latrines has decreased according to the recently published Multi Indicator Cluster Survey report.
Disclosing Ghana’s current sanitation coverage and open defecation rate Sunday, May 12, 2013 on WASH Radio, a programme that airs on Accra-based radio station, XYZ, Ibrahim Musah, Head of Policy and Partnership, WaterAid Ghana, said: “In 2008 sanitation coverage was 13%, in 2010 we were told it was 14% and just last week a new MICS report has come out to say that in 2011 we have moved to 15%.”
According to Musah, the new MICS report also reveals a number of regions in Ghana have made some progress in sanitation coverage.
“We are told that Northern Region which used to be third in terms of open defecation, has made tremendous improvement,” Musah divulged, saying they were now fourth or fifth on the open defecation ladder.
“Am also told in the new report that unfortunately our open defecation rate has increased from 19% to 23 %, yet we have just made one percent marginal increase from 14 % to 15%,” he lamented.
Indicating that there was however a possibility of changing all that because of investments the Government of Ghana has made recently in sanitation as well as the involvement of the private sector, Ibrahim Musah stressed that what is left for Government to do, is sanitation promotion in urban and peri-urban areas of the country.
This will ensure households get support in the form of micro finance, to construct latrines so that inhabitants limit the use of public latrines and do not engage in open defecation, he opined.
He said the inclusion of Behaviour Change Communication and Private Sector Involvement “Will undoubtedly help to improve environmental sanitation because…behaviour issues among the populace is quite a huge one, most importanly also, the role of the private sector to support local and national government.”
Speaking on Ghana’s revised Environmental Sanitation Policy, WaterAid’s Head of Policy and Partnership said although the 1999 policy responded to the exigencies at that time, they were not complete, so for instance the population of Ghana around that time (2000) was just hovering around 12 million people and so contextual issues of behaviour and facilities were almost in tandem with the population.
Adding that back then, the issue of private sector development was not regarded as important because population growth was commensurate with facilities, he said : “And so Government felt that with Government at the centre they could be able to solve those problems so private sector role was not thought through and was not envisaged to be so important in dealing with sanitation.
“Also behaviour change issues were not all that crucial because people were respecting the laws of nature and were living in an environmental friendliness manner,” he indicated, saying these issues were not part of the 1999 environmental sanitation policy.
Speaking to the issue of why Ghana needs an environmental policy, Musah said: “We need an Environmental Sanitation Policy for a number of reasons. As a normal human being you cannot live with filth because that will definitely compromise your quality of life and so your environment needs to be clean.”
“In terms of managing solid waste, it has to go somewhere separately from you. Secondly there is a very serious public health issue, in terms of how human hands can get into contact with faeces and the ramifications that go with it. You will fall sick, you will have diarrhoea and we imagine the last three, four years; the cases of diarrhoea, cholera that this country has witnessed in major cities and areas.”
“And so we need an environmental sanitation policy to deal with it, and also most importantly deal with public health issues in cooperation with the Ministry of Health and other health-related institutions,” he stated.
Ghana’s Environmental Sanitation Policy revised in 2010, highlights seven critical areas, which are, Capacity Development; Information, Education and Communication; Legislation and Regulation; Sustainable Financing and Cost Recovery; Levels of Service; Research and Development as well as Monitoring and Evaluation.
WASH Radio is an advocacy programme dedicated to issues on water, sanitation and hygiene and airs on Accra-based radio station Radio XYZ every Sunday from 7:00pm to 7:30pm.
Since the programme began airing on March 3, 2013 it has dealt with topics such as “An overview of Ghana’s Sanitation Situation”, “Open Defecation”, “The International Year of Cooperation” and “Ghana’s Environmental Sanitation Policy” among others.
It is currently sponsored by WaterAid West Africa (WAWA) and the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) and produced by the Ghana Watsan Journalists Network in collaboration with Radio XYZ.
By Edmund Smith-Asante/ghanabusinessnews.com