The Open Defecation Menace In Ghana

Dealing with the menace of open defecation


Many Members of Parliament (MP) and aspirants at primaries prior to the 2016 elections and in past elections pledged various projects and interventions to their constituents when they are voted into power. For some, construction of toilets in communities were key priority areas to deal with.


Some of the MPs who rendered stewardship to constituents during that period, outlined plans they still intended to undertake, urging landowners to release lands for toilet facilities to help constituents have places of convenience.

Ironically, however, the respect given to such areas have lost its place in Ghana. Ghanaians have very humble use of words that give places of convenience a special place. In most Ghanaian local parlance a place of convenience is referred to as “ Baayan Geda” or ‘Bangeda’ in Hausa, meaning “behind the house”. In other languages such as Ga and Twi, words with similar meanings are used to connote that natural act of freeing one’s bowels.

Today, human excreta is displayed like a boutique of faecal mounds and such is what greets everyone in the morning and during busy days in cities, towns and communities.

Therefore, the purpose of providing these projects in communities, though with good intentions, usually do not achieve good results as most communities resort to defecating in the open, in farms, forests, along water bodies and open spaces with direct consequences of pollution of water sources and contamination of food.

Mr Jacob Bukari, a former Assembly man for Tubong in the Upper East Region, who spoke with the GNA said before the construction of household latrines in the commu nity, women harvested leafy vegetables soiled with human excreta and attested that because of the absence of places of convenience, members of the community emptied their bowels anywhere.

Mr Bukari indicated that animals, especially pigs, eat the faecal matter and get infested with worms which is later transmitted to people when they consume pork.

As November 7 stares Ghanaians in the face, what do politicians promise? ver the years, the country has not fared well in the management of liquid and solid waste and this has further worsened with close to 19 per cent of the population practicing open defecation.

A report jointly prepared by WHO and the UNICEF affirm that 82 per cent of the one billion people who are practicing open defecation in the world live in just 10 countries, of which Ghana is one.

However, according to Brian W. Aldiss, “Civilization is the distance that man has placed between himself and his own excreta.” Ironically the faecal matter and stench that greet one from gutters, farms and tree shrubs should pinch every Ghanaian to ponder how far we are from civilization.

The huge risks of complications growing around water-borne diseases with precarious consequences from daily contamination of food and water sources, also affirm reports that from every one gram of “shit” taken in by a person, is equal to 10,000 germs consumed every day, leading to the incidence of Typhoid, cholera, worm infestation and diarrhoea, among other diseases.

Dr Alberta Britwum-Nyarko, a public health specialist, in a recent risk communication presentation indicated that in 2014, Greater Accra recorded 20,197 cholera cases, Central Region recorded 3,868, Eastern Region 1,876, whilst Brong Ahafo recorded 1056. The Western Region also recorded 429, with Volta and Ashanti regions recording 651, and 287respectively.

Dr Nyarko noted that in 2015, the country recorded 694 cases of cholera with 11 deaths with case fatality rate (CFR) at 1.6 per cent, stressing the risk factors as over-populated communities (slums and refugee camps characterized by poor sanitation, unsafe drinking water, increased person to person transmission, poor personal hygiene, poor food hygiene and floods leading to contamination of domestic water sources and broken down water and waste disposal systems.

Mr Emmanuel Addai, a Communication Consultant for UNICEF also revealed that Ghana placed second in Cholera rankings in West Africa in 2015, with 28,944 cases and 247 deaths.

This indicates that the disposal of faecal matter through inappropriate ways leads to incidences of sanitation-related risks, and this has socio-economic consequences on every household that falls prey to cholera and any of the other diseases.

Since the phasing out of pan latrines in Ghana in 2010, measures have been put in place under the environmental sanitation policy and the MDGs, targeted to create awareness through the establishment and observation of a National Environmental Sanitation Day. Its main objective is to develop and maintain a clean, safe and pleasant physical environment in all human settlements, to promote the social, economic and physical well-being of all sections of the population.

Community led Total Sanitation (CLTs), therefore, is the key strategy towards eliminating open defecation in all regions. It signifies a change from the practice of open defecation to the use of toilets as a new norm, emphasizing behavior change rather than the provision of latrines and frowns on communal latrines as a solution since their presence suppresses the zeal to invest in household toilets.

However, the unwillingness of a greater portion of the Ghanaian population to stop open defecation is worrying and calls for more commitment. In the upper East Region, out of 886 communities triggered between 2012 and 2014, through interventions by a number of development partners in the region, 210 communities are ODF, and only 27 of those communities have been verified indicating they have household toilets and use them.

According to Mr. Juventius Asanyuure, staff of the Upper East Regional Environmental Health and Sanitation Office, triggering is where communities have been educated and they understand that they are eating their own faecal matter by emptying their bowels in the open, and the accompanying consequences which they were likely to suffer and would like to move away from that situation.

In 2014, the Dugbila community, a suburb of Bolgatanga, reached the status of ODF and ever since, no other community has beaten this status though there were 119 communities that had been identified to have potentials to be ODF.

Much as an MP may want to support a community with toilet facilities, such interventions should be accompanied with responsibilities of ensuring that it is put to proper use. As a politician who stays out of one’s own community for a long time because of work, the job of educating the people in the constituency should be a continuous one.

All and sundry also owe it a duty to ensure that communities at ODF stages do not backtrack. Moreover, to the District Assemblies, water is one limiting factor to effective hand washing after the use of places of convenience and therefore the need to support communities that have challenges with access to potable water.

Source: GNA
(A GNA feature by Fatima Anafu-Astanga)

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