Stakeholders urged to prioritize WASH Programmes in Northern Regions

Environment Un Water
Environment Un Water

Mr Ramesh Bhusal, Chief of WASH Programme, has appealed to the Government, individuals, and stakeholders to prioritise Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programmes in the northern regions to avert deaths.

He said the WASH situation in the Northern Regions was below the national average, hence the need to accelerate water and sanitation in those regions.

The Chief of WASH Programme said the United Nations (UN) would continue to support the Government in enhancing evidence-based policies and strategies, and capacity building of government institutions and communities to scale-up proven approaches in WASH.

Speaking at a press briefing in Accra on Tuesday, Mr Bhusal said poor sanitation conditions posed serious public health risks, hence the need to support the WASH Programme.

“According to WHO/UNICEF Global WASH Monitoring Report, one in four people- 2 billion people around the world lack safely managed drinking water.

In Ghana, 7,653 deaths were caused by WASH related illness in 2019, 21 people per day, almost one person every hour dying from preventable WASH-related diseases,” he said.

UNICEF says, a triple threat of water-related crises had endangered the lives of 190 million children alone in 10 African countries that were at the highest risk from a convergence of three water-related threats, thus, “inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene, burden of WASH related diseases; and threats of climate change”.

Speaking ahead of the UN 2023 Water Conference, Mr Bhusal said the sanitation situation in Ghana was very poor, with only 25 per cent having access to basic services, about 57 per cent using shared or public facilities and 18 per cent still defecating openly.

The Water Conference coincides with commemoration of World Water Day which would be observed to highlight the importance of fresh water as well as to advocate for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.

He noted that climate change was also affecting access to water in several parts of Ghana, especially in the North sector adding that the UN was supporting the Government to assess the climate related risks to WASH infrastructure.

Mr Bhusal said the UN in Ghana led by UNICEF, was working in six districts in the Upper East and Upper West to improve preparedness by rehabilitating poorly functioning WASH infrastructures in health and educational institutions and communities.

He said UNICEF and WHO have successfully advocated for the integration of WASH in Health facilities by using WASH as key support for Infection, Prevention, Control (IPC) to improve maternal and child health outcomes.
“Similar approach is being undertaken in schools. The UN will model sustainable infrastructure in at least 100 health facilities and 100 school in the next three years.”

He therefore appealed to the Government to increase public finance in WASH and create an enabling environment for private sector and users to invest more in sustainable Water and Sanitation Services.

According to him, current public sector investment in WASH was estimated to be around $100 million per year, adding, “only a fraction of what is needed to achieve SDG 6 targets by 2030.”

Mr Anthony Yaw Karikari, Deputy Director, Water Research Institute, called for a Water Management System (WMS) to effectively allocate, regulate, conserve, and secure water sources.

He said the quality of water bodies was declining and if nothing was done by stakeholders, “we would have to ration the use of water in the future.”

According to Mr Karikari, future water scarcity in Ghana would be driven by population, urbanization, migration, and economic growth as well as pollution from “galamsey” and other environmental stressors like climate change.

He said, “Water management systems for planning, developing, and managing water sources are critical for reforming the sector and ensuring water security for all.”

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