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Ghanaians Must Change Their Attitude Towards Sanitation

Environmental cleanliness provides the cheapest means of healthcare, however, the attitude of some members of the public towards the environment leaves much to be desired. It is as if to say maintaining good hygiene and sanitation is the most difficult task.

The environment, to a very large extent,
affects the lives and activities of human beings as well as all other living
organisms, while good sanitation practices and maintenance of proper hygiene go
a long way to strengthen the capacity of the environment to perform its natural

Failure to free the environment from filth
can bring about diseases such as malaria, cholera, typhoid, cryptosporidiosis
(diarrheal disease), ascariasis (roundworm infection) and bilharzias.

According to the Environmental Sanitation
Policy (Revised 2012) by the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development,
environmental sanitation is among the powerful drivers of human development as
it affects quality of life and improvement in health and wealth.

Health and environmental experts on daily
basis speak against activities that contribute to poor sanitation including
deliberate littering by the public.

Many people could be held liable for the
menace, sometimes the educated are no exception. Ghana is making strides in her
developmental process and the gains made should not be dissipated by such attitudinal
backwardness. It is embarrassing to see some streets and road medians in Accra,
Ghana’s capital, looking so untidy, sometimes with sacks containing garbage
left on the shoulders of the road.

Taking into account the huge resources the
Government is putting into maintaining cleaner cities and environments, even to
the extent of borrowing for such projects, how willing are the citizens to
complement such efforts to ensure a safe environment devoid of diseases.

According to the Ministry of Sanitation and
Water Resources’ Guidelines for Targeting the Poor and Vulnerable for Basic
Sanitation Services in Ghana (2018), Ghana is one of the lowest ranked
countries in terms of access to basic sanitation worldwide.

It said nationally, on the average, 19 per
cent of the population do not have access to any sanitation facility and,
therefore, practise open defaecation.

One in five Ghanaians have no access to a
toilet facility and defaecate openly, while only 15 per cent use improved
sanitation facilities (WHO/UNCEF 2015).

The Guidelines noted that the disparities
observed in the low sanitation access statistics is also a source of national

In the Upper East Region, 89 per cent of the
population practise open defaecation, which is the highest rate in Ghana and
only three per cent use unshared improved sanitation facilities.

The Guidelines said though funding towards
maintaining proper hygiene was inadequate, the absence of clear political
leadership and commitment, as well as the low prioritisation of santitation
issues were some major challenges worth mentioning.

It noted that approximately 19,000
Ghanaians, including 3,559 children under-five years, die each year from
diarrhoea – nearly 90 per cent of which is attributed to poor water, sanitation
and hygiene.

It is distressing to note that Ghana ranks
the lowest in terms of sanitation among all lower middle-income countries,
although richer than many. The cost of poor sanitation was inequitably
distributed with the highest economic burden falling disproportionately on the

According to the Guidelines, 4.8 million
people had no latrines at all and defaecate in the open and the poorest
quintile is 22 times more likely to practise open defaecation than the richest.

It said open defaecation alone costs Ghana
US$79 million per year, yet eliminating the practice would require less than
one million latrines to be built and used.

Improved water supply and sanitation can
reduce deaths while proper hand-washing can reduce diarrhea and pneumonia by up
to 50 per cent, yet less than 15 per cent of Ghanaian households have
hand-washing facilities.

With these facts available to the Ministry
of Sanitation and Water Resources, one may then want to find out what it is
doing to curb the menace.

To say the problem is more associated with
people’s unsavory attitudes towards the environment than the unavailability of
funds for its control may not be far from the truth.

No one can say that he or she does not know
that indiscriminate littering of the environment, selling and eating unhealthy
foods, open defaecation and non-adherence to good hygiene has health

These issues have escalated, even in this
21st century surprisingly, where educational levels are supposed to have gone

Mrs Cecilia Abena Dapaah, the Minister of
Sanitation and Water Resources, has described as completely unacceptable the
situation where indiscriminate littering, open defaecation and urination have
become a norm in Ghana.

She said the poor sanitation attitude needed
to radically change, since it impacted on so many segments of the economy and
cost the nation huge sums of money, time and pain.

“It is surprising when one recalls how
overnight the once law-abiding Ghanaian had become recalcitrant and developed
poor attitude towards the environment.”

“This attitude has led to numerous diseases
and conditions with attendant traumatic consequences and women and children
having to bear most of this burden,” Mrs Dapaah said in a speech read on her
behalf during the grand finale of the 2018 Clean Ghana Concert Award in Accra,
organised by the Clean Ghana Action Ambassadors, a Non-Governmental

She said the only way to reverse the gloomy
situation was to improve on the attitude of the citizenry as everyone has a
role to play in making the country a clean one.

“Maintaining good sanitation are efforts to
achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. We will always use the opportunity
and platform to appeal to all of us to make sure we desist from unsavory
practices and leave a good legacy for generations to come,” Mrs Dapaah said.

The introduction of the National Sanitation
Day, observed every first Saturday of the month, is commendable. However, that
alone cannot solve the myriad of problems generated through unhealthy
environmental attitudes.

Suffice it to say that the introduction of
the sanitation courts to deal with perpetrators of “sanitary crime” is in the
right direction.  

The government, therefore, needs to
re-enforce and amend laws governing sanitation and indiscriminate disposal of
refuse to punish offenders to serve as a deterrent.

There must also be a rewarding systems to encourage citizens to report individuals or companies whose activities negatively affect the environment.

By Eunice Hilda Ampomah   

Source: GNA

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