President John Dramani Mahama has said that the next NDC administration under his watch will work towards ending the age-old menace of open defecation by 2021.
The President said this at the Banquet Hall of the State House on Tuesday, where he gave highlights of his party’s manifesto for the 2016 polls in December.
The President, who was explaining what his administration’s policy on sanitation would be for the next four years if voted into power, said “Our target is to end open defecation by the year 2021; in the next five years. In the next five years, we want to ensure that nobody has to go and do his business outside in the bush or on the beach or anywhere. And so we will invest massively in providing toilet facilities all over the country.”
Open defecation age-old practice
The practice of open defecation has gone on for years in Ghana, both in rural and urban areas.
According to the Ghana Demographic and Health Survey 2014, twenty-one percent of Ghanaians have no access to a toilet and still use the bush or open field for defecation.
This is worse in rural areas where 34 percent of the population still practice open defecation.
This is largely as a result of the failure of some households in both rural and urban centers to construct such facilities in addition to their residential facilities.
Ghana: 10,000 public schools without toilets
In some cases too, government has failed to build toilet facilities for public schools leaving children with no option but to use the bush or the beaches. In fact, a survey conducted in public schools across the country in 2014,revealed that about 10,000 schools did not have toilet facilities.
The number is half the estimated 20,000 public schools in Ghana, apart from the thousands of privately owned schools that may not have toilet facilities.
On the other hand, some of these government-managed facilities have fewer toilet facilities.
Municipal, Metropolitan and District Assemblies are empowered by laws to sanction such home owners, but the laws have been largely dormant.
Without toilets, children’s lives and dignity at stake in Ghana
In November 2015, UNICEF said access to toilets is endangering the lives of thousands of Ghana’s most vulnerable children, pointing to emerging evidence of links between inadequate sanitation and malnutrition. The report’ Improving Nutrition Outcomes with Better Water, Sanitation and Hygiene’, from UNICEF, USAID and the World Health Organization, for the first time, brought together years of research and case studies which demonstrate the link between sanitation and malnutrition.
It said lack of sanitation, and particularly open defecation, which is high in Ghana, contributes to the incidence of diarrhoea and to the spread of intestinal parasites, which in turn contributes to malnutrition. “Improvements in sanitation mean children in Ghana will avoid becoming stunted due to diarrhoea,” said Susan Namondo Ngongi, the UNICEF Representative in Ghana.
It said diarrhoea is one of the main causes of deaths of children under five years of age each year and is essentially a faecal-oral disease, where humans come in contact with germs-carrying faeces and ingest them. In Ghana where rates of toilet use are low, rates of diarrhoea tend to be high.
Ghana ranked world’s 7th dirtiest country
In July 2015, Ghana slipped further on its sanitation performance globally to become the World’s 7th worst performing country, according to a new report released on Tuesday.
The Joint Monitoring Programme report, “Progress on Sanitation and Drinking Water: 2015 Update and MDG Assessment,” a collaborative effort between the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund, says that the challenge to access improved sanitation is starker in Ghana, “which has slipped even further amongst the worst performing countries, now ranked 7th worst globally.”