By: Tabitha Kugbonu | Voltaonlinegh |
Ghana ranks lowest in sanitation levels among all lower middle-income countries, although richer than a lot.
That’s according to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) Chief of Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), David Duncan.
He said the nation was one of the lowest in terms of access to sanitation worldwide and that it was rather ironic she sunk lower than countries recovering from wars.
Addressing municipal and district chief executives and other stakeholders at a meeting in Ho on the UNICEF WASH Program, Mr Duncan said funding was not the problem, “but commitment and prioritisation”.
He also revealed that thousands of children died from diarrhea and that the nation lost millions of dollars annually to poor sanitation and open defecation.
World Health Organization (WHO) a global watchdog on health defines sanitation as the provision of facilities and services for the safe disposal of human urine and faeces.
The word sanitation also refers to the maintenance of hygienic conditions, through services such as garbage collection and wastewater disposal.
In most parts of Ghana today, poor sanitation is increasingly becoming a huge problem and an embarrassment to Mother Ghana.
Sogakope, the district capital of South Tongu District is one of the main contributors to the nation’s poor sanitation status.
Sogakope is at a business transaction point for the district because it is a commercial centre located on the Ecowas road. Most women in the Sogakope Township sell bread, adodi, Tsofi, abolo (local foods) among others as their major businesses.
However, the administrative capital is faced with poor sanitation issues because of the attitude of residents in the town.
Sogakope market, a place where we buy our foodstuffs from has turned into a latrine and refuse dump for people living in Sogakope. So after market days, you do not know the difference between a dumping site and a market.
Most people in the town have refused to take a household dustbin citing their inability to pay the GH¢20 monthly dues for their refuse to be collected by the sanitation officers in town.
Again, most houses in the town are without toilets forcing tenants who cannot patronise the public toilets for various reasons, use gutters and surrounding bushes including Agorkpo R/C School Park as their toilet while throwing rubbishes around at undesignated places.
The result is that one gets to meet unpleasant smells at some important places in town especially from the gutters.
That is not all. Some people have also channeled their septic tanks into the drain and all these waste materials end up finding their ways into the River Volta and we still fetch water in the river for domestic use.
What is more, food vendors site their business points close to same places being used for refuse dumps without caring about anything and woe unto any ordinary person to complain. “My friend, mind your own business. Don’t you know that’s the work of Zoomlion? After all why is government paying them,” will be the reaction.
You might be wondering if indiscriminately littering is only done by uneducated persons but surprisingly, well dressed fully grown educated persons are not left out in littering of the environment. And they do this without any shame leaving one wondering what kind of mental state we are in as citizens of this nation.
Sources revealed that there is no garbage container for the people of Sogakope South Electoral Area where the market is located while the increased population has rendered two garbage containers at the Sogakope North and Central insufficient for the residents living around there to dump their refuse into.
It will not be surprising if the infamous Cholera outbreak that claimed lives of Ghanaians in 2014 would be a history repeating itself in Sogakope if we do not change our attitudes.
In case we have forgotten, the government is you and I which belongs to all of us so whatever we do whether good or bad, it would by all means bounce back to us that is why we need to be extra careful about our attitudes.
We must remind ourselves that if we want God to bless our nation as indicated in our national anthem part of it which says, “God bless our homeland Ghana and make our nation great and strong”, then all of us must be committed to ensuring that Ghana is clean as “cleanliness is next to Godliness”.
South Tongu District Coordinator, Zoomlion Ghana Limited, Benjamin Kasali Adeleke said his outfit was doing everything possible to maintain proper sanitation in the town but “it is as if no matter the amount of education that has been done early on or now, no one cares as far as sanitation is concerned in the town.”
Mr. Adeleke said Volta and Oti regions had been grouped into 5 zones to fight sanitation related issues with Sogakope chosen as the pivotal centre to serve Central Tongu, North Tongu, Akatsi South, Keta Municipal and Anloga District in Zone 4.
“As it stands now, can we use Sogakope as the pivot to fight sanitation in the rest four districts and the Municipality if our own home is dirty? I don’t think you can sweep someone’s house if yours is not kept clean,” he lamented.
He said plans were underway for the distribution of 1 million dustbins to every household by the district assembly to ensure that sanitation was maintained in the district especially its capital.
The District Health Environmental Health Officer, South Tongu, Philip Gawuga said, sanitation “is a way of life whereby it starts from the citizens themselves.”
So people are talking about sanitation workers not discharging their duties effectively and the same people are telling the officers to educate them.
This, Mr. Gawuga said he “looks at them and ask, if you say you don’t know anything about sanitation, then why is it that when the environmental health officers are going round doing their inspection especially for food vendors then they quickly try to cover up?”
He added that they had been using the Sanitation Law to deal with the offenders but the citizens would not bulge because “everyone knows what sanitation is just that they fail to do the right thing and in the end they blame sanitation agencies for not doing their work.”
The Prime Minister of India quoted Mahatma Gandhi who said in 1923 that, “sanitation is more important than independence”, meaning that adequate sanitation together with good hygiene and safe water are fundamental to good health and socio-economic development
So the only way the government and the citizens can have a clean environment is through systems approach.
The experience of the user of sanitation facilities must be considered and connected to collection of wastewater, solid waste and excreta to their transportation, treatment and result in recycling and reuse.
Government must collaborate with non-government organisations in charge of sanitation to provide widespread sanitation infrastructure such as public toilets, sewage systems, septic tanks etc.
Of importance, we the citizens must also make conscious efforts to contribute to sanitation in the country bearing in mind that everybody is responsible for the rise and fall of the country because that is the only way we can realise our dream of being like the other countries we admire.