ACCRA, Ghana is ranked lowest in sanitation levels among all lower middle income countries, although the country is richer than many others in that bracket, says the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) Chief of Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), David Duncan.

Ghana was one of the lowest in terms of access to sanitation worldwide and it was ironic that it was even ranked below some countries recovering from wars, said Duncan when addressing Municipal and District chief executives, and other stakeholders at a meeting on the UNICEF WASH programme held in Ho, the capital of Volta Region (Province) in southeastern Ghana.

Stressing that funding was not the problem for the low rabking, but commitment and prioritization, he added that political will is the challenge and not household wealth, a change in behaviour and not only constructing toilets. He called on stakeholders to take challenging decisions, and make sanitation paramount in all policies.

Duncan said thousands of children died from diarrhoea and that the nation lost about 290 million US dollars, and 79 million USD annually to poor sanitation and open defecation respectively.

Open defecation rates had dropped by one per cent in 24 years and he said with such a rate of improvement, it would take Ghana about 500 years to become Open Defecation Free (ODF).

Duncan said although the nation had about 70 per cent access to improved water, a quarter of health facilities lacked water, while only two out of five schools had clean water supplies, and only three out of five had toilets.

He said the situation owed in part to a lack of maintenance, and non-payment of bills, adding that the nation risked having future generations with no access to water and sanitation.

Nationally, only one out of five people washed their hands and the rate of diarrhoea in children under five years old was highest in communities with unimproved sanitation facilities, he said.

He added that 3,385 infant mortalities were recorded which could be reduced by 25 per cent if birth attendants washed their hands with soap, and by 60 per cent if mothers did the same.

About 90 per cent of Ghanaians had access to water but only a third drank quality water and Duncan said Unicef was supporting the drive for access to safe water by helping the government make key decisions.

Noting that about 60 per cent of the populace used shared toilet facilities, 15 per cent used improved ones, six per cent unimproved, and 19 per cent practised open defecation, he urged that toilets be built to withstand the weather, and be made affordable for the poor.

Duncan further called on the private sector to drive the demand for improved sanitation by designing systems with modern technologies which would make them attractive.

Donors had contributed over 500 million dollars towards WASH in Ghana, and he asked stakeholders to consider leveraging on internally generated funds as donor-funding declined in view of the country’s rising income status.

Duncan said the Community-led Total Sanitation (CLTS) approach improved within three months of incremental trials and that there was a need to correlate behavioural change, sanitation marketing, and improved waste management. WASH seeks to eliminate open defecation by 2020, attain universal access to affordable basic sanitation as well as universal equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water by 2025.

Unicef had over the years helped more than 2.25 million people in Ghana become ODF, supported more than 500,000 in safely transporting, treating and storing water, as well as provided more than 250,000 school children with school facilities.

It is helping the government improve policies, strategies, and governance, and is also helping on a National Emergency Awareness and Response Plan.



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