Ghana is struggling to find sustainable solutions to emerging threats caused by climate change and human activities on its lands and environment.
Dangers of illegal mining
The rapid pollution of water bodies and destruction of soil and forest reserves through illegal mining activities, sand winning, bad farming practices among others, are impeding access to potable water to many people, especially those in the affected communities and others who depend on the polluted rivers for water supply.
While the government and its development partners are working hard through various interventions under the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) projects to increase access to quality drinking water to many people in the cities and peri-urban communities, there is still a lot to be done to support people in rural and deprived communities.
In fact, the widening inequalities in access to water and hygiene facilities between urban and deprived rural communities continue to be a concern to many individuals and organizations working in the WASH space.
For example, while access to safe drinking water in the Greater Accra and Greater Kumasi metropolitan areas are estimated at 97 and 94.5 percent respectively, access to safe drinking water in North-East and Savannah regions is estimated at 54 and 55.1 percent, respectively.
The widening inequalities is unacceptable and needs to be addressed.
Again, poor access to toilet facilities in households, schools, healthcare facilities and other public places in rural and deprived hard-to-reach communities, is also an inequality issue.
Mr Yaw Attah Arhin, Chairman of the Coalition of NGOs in the Water and Sanitation Sector (CONIWAS) at the just ended MOLE 33 Wash Conference at Elmina said, “it is unacceptable that in the 21st century, 74 percent of households in Ghana lack access to improved toilet facilities”.
It is estimated that 17.7 percent of Ghana’s total population of almost 32 million people, still practise open defecation.
It is interesting to note, according to Mr Arhin, that all the five regions in northern Ghana “have open defecation rates higher than 50 percent with Savannah and Upper East regions recording open defecation rates of 68.5 and 68.4 percent respectively”.
It is against this background that all well-meaning Ghanaians should support the call by CONIWAS to the government and its development partners to support the Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA) with the needed resources to sustainably increase access to safe drinking water and hygiene facilities in these areas to help improve the socio-economic conditions of the people and reduce the inequality gap.
The MOLE Conference, named after the Mole Game Reserve near Damango, where the maiden conference was held in 1989, is a multi-stakeholder platform in the WASH sector in Ghana.
Stakeholders converged at the conference to review Ghana’s commitment towards universal access to sustainable WASH services by the systems, approaches, and models of WASH service delivery.
As stated by Mr Issahaku Chinnia Amidu, Deputy Minister for Sanitation and Water Resources during an interview with the Ghana News Agency on the sidelines of the conference, “we need to commit more through the service we deliver to the good people of Ghana, especially when we are left with only eight years to end the SDG end line.”
Since the declaration of the 2010 UN Resolution 64/292, which recognized access to basic water and sanitation as a universal human rights, there is a high pressure on all stakeholders to do whatever it takes to ensure universal access to water and sanitation facilities before the 2030 deadline.
Ghana’s performance towards the achievement of the SDG goal six (6), which deals with water and sanitation, according to the global SDG dashboard, indicates moderate improvement in the area, and if the current momentum of WASH service delivery is not accelerated, the country could not be able to reach the goal by the end of 2030.
To address this challenge, the MOLE conference suggested several measures to be implemented to enable the country to reach the SDG goals.
Among them is the strengthening of the private sector in WASH to lead initiatives for the delivery of WASH services to achieve government’s agenda of job creation and local economic development.
The Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources should take immediate steps to develop a framework for managing the Sanitation and Pollution Levy to help increase financial resources to the sector.
NGOs in the WASH sector should work to strengthen WASH systems by deliberately demonstrating linkages between relevant system building blocks in all projects and ongoing sector reforms.
With these and other initiatives, Ghana would be in a better position to provide enhanced WASH services to the people in all parts of the country and thereby, reduce the inequality and accessibility gaps in the sector.