Poor sanitation costs Ghana $290 million every year, a programmes officer at the Environmental Health and Sanitation Directorate (EHSD) of the Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources, Mr Kweku Quansah, has disclosed.
The cost incurred is as a result of poor sanitation delivery arising from time spent on accessing water and sanitation facilities, deaths due to poor sanitation, exposure to preventable diseases, among others.
Speaking at the national platform meeting for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) advocates in Accra last Wednesday, Mr Quansah noted that pan latrines still existed in cities and towns.
“If we have 2,000 pan latrines in Accra alone, then we are not safe as a country,” he said.
He stated that open defecation alone cost Ghana $79 million per annum and, therefore, stressed the need for the issue of open defecation to be taken seriously in Ghana.
Mr Quansah indicated that households used other means for defecation, including using plastic bags, a situation that exposed children to preventable diseases.
“Children play where people defecate. Child safety, especially for the girl child, is compromised, while children are exposed to snakes and other animals. The strategy to stop open defecation is cheap, but the benefits are so many,” he stated.
He stated that in 2014, preventable diseases, including diarrhoea, killed over 4,500 children in Ghana, while cholera killed 247.
He attributed the bad hygienic attitude among Ghanaians to the poor sanitation situation in the country, adding that the report by the ministry on sanitation in 2015 indicated a 15 per cent improvement in sanitation, a situation he described as very slow to achieving the SDG Goal Six.
He said the ministry was ready to accept constructive suggestions from the public, as far as sanitation was concerned.
The five-year advocacy programme, which began from 2016 and ends in 2020, is being implemented by the SNIG Netherlands Development Organisation, in collaboration with the International Food and Policy Research Institute.
The meeting provided an avenue for consensus building and collaborative evidence-based advocacy by national level civil society organisations and networks towards a national sanitation policy and implementation reforms aimed at improving sanitation and access to hygiene for the masses across the country.
After deliberations, the stakeholders under the WASH sector advocated an increase in finance to enable Ghana to reach its heights in sanitation and hygiene.
They also recommended the review of the definition of water access, household water storage and treatment.
According to the participants, although Ghanaians needed water, it was necessary to access quality water.
“For us as stakeholders, it is appropriate that we ensure that water is of the right quality, and that includes handling, storage and treatment,” A WASH programme manager, Mr Philip K. Darko, said.
For her part, the Chief Executive Officer at Intervention Forum, Mrs Nora Ollenu, said a collective drive by all key stakeholders was required if the SDG of ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all in Ghana could be achieved on a sound footing.
“What we seek to achieve is to come up with a position paper to present to the ministry in this time that they are working on their five-year strategic document. We are focusing on policy implementation because we believe that there are weak policy implementation in our country,” she said.