The Greater Accra Metropolitan Area (GAMA) Sanitation and Water Project (SWP) under the Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources has initiated a noble project to improve the quality of life for a 15-year-old patient combating typhoid fever.
Prompted by a report cast by the Human Rights Reporters Ghana (HRRG), the ministry has successfully constructed a toilet facility for the underprivileged teen.
Typhoid fever, a potentially fatal bacterial disease commonly spread due to poor sanitation, is a severe public health issue in Ghana.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the country reports over 600,000 cases annually.
The 15-year-old adolescent, Abena (not her real name), a past student of Kiddy’s Garden School of UPCO located at Gbegbeyise community is one among many victims of what could have been prevented with better sanitation.
Human Rights Reporters Ghana (HRRG), an organization dedicated to reporting human rights abuses in the country, highlighted the teenager’s despairing living conditions and health issues.
HRRG firmly believes that access to a toilet is a fundamental right that underpins the health, dignity, and prosperity of a community.
Their report also expanded on how the lack of a sanitary toilet facility within their home, teamed with water-borne diseases, serves to snowball into serious health risks for the family.
Thanks to this investigative journalism by the HRRG’s executive director, Joseph Kobla Wemakor, the Ministry under the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area (GAMA) Sanitation and Water Project through the leadership of Ing. George Asiedu, launched an immediate intervention.
The report: “Living without a toilet at home: The traumatic tale of a 15-year-old typhoid fever patient”, first published by Ghanaweb.com, went viral and received massive publication by various major online portals the moment the news surfaced.
“On the 23rd of June 2023 we saw this publication by Joseph Kobla Wemakor, a human rights reporter and we saw this dilemma of a 15-year-old typhoid patient.
In the environment where the report indicates that the residents do not have access to toilet facilities and open defecation happens to be the norm and quickly as a Project, we thought that this is one area we should also quickly get into and then follow-up to see how best we can help a 15-year-old person,” Ing. George Asiedu” the GAMA Project Coordinator narrated in an interview.
The ministry, committed to ensuring proper sanitation for all citizens, committed resources to build the teenager and her family a much-desired toilet facility.
The project came to fruition, and Abena’s home now boasts separate, clean, and functional toilets that offer a dignified solution to sanitation needs.
Prior to filing this impactful story, Wemakor had received a boost from the Centre for Science and Health Communication (CSHC) and partners to have his capacity built on infectious disease reporting among over 30 Ghanaian journalists who were selected and subsequently trained on May 17, 2023.
The overall goal of the workshop is to ensure an enhanced capacity is built for health and science journalists in the country who can be well-equipped with knowledge and skills to produce stories and educate the public on infectious diseases.
Apart from the skills and knowledge imparted, each beneficiary was also provided with funding support and tasked with producing a story on infectious disease to educate the public.
Out of the media contents produced by each of the over 30 beneficiaries, Wemakor’s report stood out with an impact on the 15-year-old girl and her family when he got a surprised phone call from an official of the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area Sanitation and Water Project under the Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources following their swift intervention.
Reports show the teen’s family was overwhelmed with gratitude as they expressed appreciation to the Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources, the GAMA Sanitation and Water Project Management team, and human rights journalist Joseph Kobla Wemakor for the support.
While the toilet facility would abolish the immediate sanitary risk for the household, it is only a small victory in the larger combat against poor sanitation in the country.
This particular case manifests the crucial role that media can play in affecting societal change.
Human Rights Reporters Ghana used their platform not just to highlight human rights abuses but also to catalyze necessary improvements in living conditions for disadvantaged citizens.
Despite being a life-threatening hurdle, the issue of sanitation continues to debilitate several communities in Ghana.
According to reports by UNICEF, over 20% of Ghana’s population lacks access to an improved toilet facility.
In many parts of the world, the comfort and necessity of indoor plumbing are taken for granted. Yet, over 2 billion people worldwide remain without access to basic sanitation needs, according to a 2019 report from the WHO and UNICEF.
Open defecation, inadequate sanitation, and the absence of toilet facilities can lead to serious health complications, including typhoid fever, a trauma bitterly experienced by a 15-year-old girl whose story provokes reflection on issues of health, dignity, and human rights.
This single act of generosity by the Ministry should be lauded for the immediate relief it provides to the young patient. However, it also underscores the urgent need for comprehensive strategies to eradicate poor sanitation countrywide.
The urgency of large-scale sanitary initiatives and consistent efforts to upkeep hygiene in communities cannot be overstressed.
Simultaneously, it is equally essential for other stakeholders, including public health agencies, non-profit organizations, and the general public to contribute towards robust strategies to mitigate this alarming public health issue.
The construction of the toilet facility for the 15-year-old typhoid patient serves as an urgent reminder of the importance of adequate sanitary conditions in the prevention of infectious diseases.
It is a testament to the fact that sanitation is not just a physical infrastructure issue but a critical health and human rights concern.
The Human Rights Reporters Ghana (HRRG) is extremely grateful to Ing. George Asiedu, GAMA Project Coordinator, Ministry of Sanitation Ghana as well as the entire management team, the Headmaster of Kiddy’s Garden School of UPCO Mr. Francis Avuletey, the Centre for Science and Health Communication (CSHC) and its Director Bernard Appiah (Ph.D.), School of Communication Studies, University of Ghana including all their partners for their support which contributed to making a huge impact in the life of the 15-year-old girl and her family.