Ghana Lags Behind Countries In Fight Against Open Defecation

FIRST DEPUTY Speaker of Parliament, Ebo Barton Odro has expressed concern about the fact that Ghana is lagging behind countries like Mali, Burkina Faso and Benin among other nations in the fight against Open Defecation.

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Mr. Odro said Ghana is doing well as a middle income country as compared to some other countries but the menace of Open Defecation was high in the country.

wpid-ebobartonodro.jpgThe First Deputy Speaker said these at a two-day workshop in Cape Coast for members of the Parliamentary Press Corps on the theme “Open Defecation, a Menace in Ghana” with sponsorship from UNICEF.

Mr. Odro stated that open defecation cannot continue in a civilized society like Ghana adding that “we cannot reduce poverty without solving water and sanitation problems.”

“It is more worrying to hear the unwillingness of people to stop open defecation in the Central Region. But we can overcome the many challenges by working together to eradicate open defecation,” he noted.

Chief of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), a unit of UNICEF Ghana, David Duncan on his part said “the economic cost of open defecation in Ghana have been highlighted as $79 million per year, yet we struggle to invest even a few million dollars a year to tackle it.”

Mr. Duncan said there has been huge investment in building public toilets across the country but “we learned that rates of diarrhea were similar for people using public toilets to those defecating in the open or using unimproved toilets.”

He further explained that having money alone to build public toilets cannot resolve the menace but rather there should be huge investments in changing behavioral and attitudinal changes in the communities.

The Chief of WASH noted that it is important for the media to raise public awareness on open defecation and set the agenda in educating the public on the menace.

Regional Director of the Central Regional Environmental Health Officer, Martin Amevor in a brief presentation on the status of open defecation in the region said open defecation in the region has reduced from 18% to 13.5% adding that this may be attributed to the Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) implementation since 2010 and the enforcement of building code and other regulations.

Mr. Amevor stated that some ongoing approaches to end open defecation are incremental strategy to enhance open defecation free delivery, introduction of sanitation marketing approach, village savings and loan schemes and streamlining data collection at all levels.

Other approaches include soliciting support of other development partners to support Regional Coordinating Councils and Metropolitan Municipal and District Assemblies and drawing on existing social norms to create social pressure to end open defection in the Region.

Member of Parliament for Komenda Edina Eguafo Abrim, Dr. Nana Ato Arthur also stated that it is embarrassing to see foreign tourists in the Central Region taking pictures of people openly defecating instead of taking pictures of castles and other tourists sites.

Dr. Arthur added that politicians have also contributed to the menace of open defecation because some politicians threaten to transfer Sanitation Officers who try to enforce sanitation laws, especially during election years.

He further suggested that politicians and traditional authorities need to work together towards eradicating open defecation.

Central Regional Minister, Kweku Ricketts Hagan also said about 1.5 million children under age five die out of acute malaria globally adding that diseases such as diarrhea, cholera and typhoid are common because of open defecation.

Mr. Hagan further entreated UNICEF to extend its Programme on open defecation to other districts to expedite action on eradicating open defecation.

-Theresa Adezewa Aryeetey

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