Sanitation has always been a common word in Ghana because of the consistent mention of it by the media. The reason why the media has always been the tool of pronunciation is because Ghana has always been on the bad side of the books on sanitation.
According to the well known online internet encyclopaedia “WIKIPEDIA”, sanitation is the hygienic means of promoting health through the prevention of human contact with the hazards of waste as well as the treatment and proper disposal of wastewater.
The World Health Organization (WHO) also defined sanitation as the provision of facilities and services for the safe disposal of human urine and faeces. Inadequate sanitation is a major cause of diseases world-wide and improving sanitation is known to have a significant beneficial impact on health both in households and across communities.
With respect to the above definitions from the two reliable sources, sanitation can be simply redefined as the art of providing healthy living conditions through proper waste management.
Life has always been the most valuable assert of humans and life rests upon a healthy way of living. If this statement is right, then sanitation must be taken seriously. On a more serious note, Ghana is shameful and drenched with ultimate misery when it comes to sanitation.
The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund now known as United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) had a joint monitoring platform. On this platform, Ghana placed 48th in Africa out of 52 countries on a neatness ranking. More than 4 million people in Ghana resort to defecating in bushes, drains and fields. Of the world’s dirtiest cities, 16 are located in Africa. Most painfully, Sunyani, the capital of the Brong-Ahafo Region is dubbed the neatest city in Ghana whiles Accra, the heart of the country and the seat of government is one of the dirtiest cities in Ghana.
What image does the country portray if the dwelling place of its leadership is filthy? The image this country portrays is more than clear and obvious, its shame.
There is no doubt that sanitation and human health are inextricably linked. This means that the bad sanitary state of the nation is ultimately affecting the health of the population negatively. And this is clearly depicted in the life expectancy at birth for a Ghanaian provided by the Index Mondi website earlier this year. Males have a life expectancy of approximately 63 years while that of females are approximately 68 years.
Deadly diseases like typhoid, cholera, malaria, pneumonia, hepatitis diarrhoea, worm infestations, under-nutrition and many others all find their source from poor sanitary issues. The rational human will have a sparkling zest to know the preventive mechanisms of the above diseases. When we pick the dirtiest city in Ghana (Accra), we can ask the question, “which Governmental body is in charge of sanitation in Accra?”. The Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) is the best answer. This institution has outlined the causes of poor sanitation and here they are below:
- Poor conceptualisation of sanitation
- Lack of adequate sanitary facilities
- Ignorance and irresponsibility of individuals
- Lack of community action
- Poor sanitary law enforcement and weak sanitary laws
- Springing up of unauthorised structures and Indiscriminate hawking
- Lack of regular budgetary allocation for sanitation
In order to fathom the causes above, each one will be tackled and dissected in order to see where the actual problem lies.
POOR CONCEPTUALISATION OF SANITATION
It has always been said that the mental faculty is the first place to look at if one wants to solve a problem. How many people will feel awkward or extremely surprised when someone throws a water sachet at a public place? Most probably, 90 out of 95 Ghanaians will see this act as normal when an opinion poll is held and those questioned give an answer in solemnity and probity. Ghanaians are accustomed to filth, the people are used to a dirty environment and feel no self-impelling force towards making sure the right thing is done when it comes to sanitation. This mindset of taking sanitary issues for granted must be extricated from our thoughts if we want to solve the tribulations that poor sanitation brings. Silent killers are always the ones humans take for granted. Poor sanitation is one.
It appears that as a people, we have not fully understood the implications of poor sanitation to cause an eager action to change our practises in the effective and efficient disposal and collection of waste.
LACK OF ADEQUATE SANITARY FACILITIES
Any tool that aids in the promotion of sanitation can be called a sanitary facility. Incinerators, dust pans, brooms, brushes, Water Closets (WCs) and all cleaning devices can be classified under sanitary facilities. Unfortunately, people in our country pay less attention in providing sanitary tools for their buildings during the building process. Every building must be designed and constructed in such a way that sanitary facilities are provided for all occupants of, and visitors to, the building in form that allows convenience of use and that there is no threat to the health and safety of occupants. The availability and accessibility of sanitary facilities both stand as an obstacle in the cleaning process. Facilities should be sufficient enough to prevent unnecessary queuing most especially at the various schools, hospitals and public toilets located in our country. Another side of the coin of sanitary facilities is that, aside the limited number of these facilities, we do not keep them well and they eventually fail to stand the test of time. People soil and fail to keep the public toilets clean. We need to cultivate the highly scarce habit in Africa which is the act of been custodians to the limited resources we have. One should be able to find a dustbin at a place in every 1KM walk. This will ease the tendency to litter around.
IGNORANCE AND IRRESPONSIBILTY OF INDIVIDUALS
The ignoramus nature of Ghanaians towards the link between death, illness and poor sanitation is like the poison of pride. It consistently tricks you via impunity and makes you think all is well until you are caught by surprise and choked one day and death springs up. When it comes to ignorance, those with less education under poor living standards at our rural areas can be considered a little for the mere fact that they cannot read and comprehend the negative nature of poor sanitation. But, the conscience and thinking ability of such humans can also be questioned. To solve the issue about ignorance, awareness in various local dialects should be undertaken and reiterated for as long as the ignorant ones succumb to the negative attitude of forgoing the right acts of sanitation. I will bemoan the fact that many also know and have every information on sanitation but fail to adhere to the rules of it because of the flaw of irresponsibility. I noticed that the Accra Metropolitan Assembly found no effort in mentioning “Ignorance and irresponsibility of individuals” as a cause of poor sanitation. The AMA is quick in locating the faults in the individual but fail to turn the mirror towards themselves. On Friday, 11th October, 2013, the Resource Centre Network – Ghana posted on their website an article in brevity with the title “Consultants chop big money meant for sanitation project”. This article accused the consultants of spending the money allocated to five metropolitan assemblies in 2010 under the Second Urban Environmental Sanitation Project (UESP II). The Accra Metropolitan Assembly which was allocated $6,447,441 spent $454,149 on consultancy. The validity of these accusations has not yet been ultimately proven but as the saying goes, there is always a little truth in every rumour. So, there is a high probability that the Assemblies are guilty. Since the AMA and the other Metropolitan Assemblies are epitomes of Leadership, they have to live by example and the entire populace will follow them. This is a way forward in solving the unforgiving issues of poor sanitation. The finances should always go to where they are to go and not the private pockets of officials in charge.
LACK OF COMMUNITY ACTION
“Communal Labour” was a commonality some years back. But I think this has now been alienated from our communities. There were days, when everyone irrespective of your creed, religion, height, weight, colour, ideologies and sex went to that gutter that was choked in the community to work. On these days stipulated for communal labour, people left whatever they were doing. They made sure they worked to improve their living conditions in a sanitary way. There is now a mindset of inferiority complex on people who give their all in cleaning the environment. I am seriously shocked and will forever decry the way people look down upon people working with the sanitary company ZOOMLION. Institutions in charge of sanitation should try to encourage traditional leaders across the nation to organise communal labours periodically. The Okyehene, Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panyin initiated a clean Ghana campaign and this was extremely beneficial to the country but could have been way better if Ghanaians co-operated and geared their actions towards his aim in cleaning the country through various contests. This is what many traditional leaders must take into consideration. They need to use the power they have to build a Better Ghana with respect to a healthy abode.
POOR SANITARY LAW ENFORCEMENT AND WEAK SANITARY LAWS
Our Legislature has always been good at formulating laws and Ghanaians have always been more than good at ignoring these laws according to their whims and caprices. It’s good to make a law to guide society, but whether or not the law will work is highly dependent on the degree or level to which an enforcement will occur inclined to the law passed. In Italy, there are various forms of the police. Interestingly, there is a unit specifically dedicated to deal with issues associated to sanitation. The “Servizio Sanitario” or Sanitary Police in Italy is in charge of sanitation and has the power by lawful means to arrest anyone that acts in a way that jeopardizes the clean nature of the country. Ghana needs to adopt this kind of service to strictly punish those who deliberately litter around. Perpetrators should be jailed and fined huge amounts to serve as a deterrent to the potential filthy human whose conscience will not tell him or her that littering around detrimentally affects our country. There should be no mercy on those who decide and are determined to make everywhere in Ghana look like a refuse dump.
SPRINGING UP OF UNAUTHORISED STRUCTURES AND INDISCRIMINATE HAWKING
There is no slum in the world that has poor sanitary issues. Squatters most especially the ones that live in kiosks with no authorised designation cause the outburst of slums in Ghana. Squatters are undisputedly acclaimed as the filthy in nature due to the rate at which they do not keep their surroundings clean. Most squatters do not have a place convenience hence choose to defecate in bushes, field sites and gutters. A part of this problem could be blamed on the squatters and another section could be blamed on government on their failure to provide a basic necessity (shelter) of humans via job creations.
Hawking also has a serious effect on sanitation. A shopkeeper will most certainly have a dustbin around his workplace to prevent consumers of his service from littering around his workplace since that will be detrimental to the amount of cedis he will make at the end of the day. Hawkers do not have the stationary nature but locomote according to the position of his or her customers. According to this instance, most hawkers do not care to take a dustbin along since that will be tedious and will not affect their cedis in anyway. If hawkers are lessened and given more restrictive zones backed by law, littering will be solved on a large basis.
LACK OF REGULAR BUDGETARY ALLOCATION FOR SANITATION
This is definitely a problem that the Accra Metropolitan Assembly will reiterate not for the aim of solving the entire problem of poor sanitation but for the avenue to swindle the money into their personal accounts. The 2014 budget allocation to water and sanitation was GH 531,389,023 cedis which is a significant increase but not good for sanitation since water takes majority of the budget allocation because of its power with respect to sustaining life faster. If and only if those in charge of the allocation of these financial tools do what is right, the money will be more than enough to solve various sanitary issues.
In brevity, here are the solutions to the sanitary tribulations of Ghana:
- Proper education on sanitation or intensive sanitation campaigns
- Enact stringent sanitation laws at both parliamentary and district levels
- Effective sanitary law enforcement through the establishing of the sanitary police system
- Infusion of sanitation as a course in the education system from early childhood to the tertiary level.
Sanitation is not a too difficult task if Ghanaians wake up and start doing what is right, right from their mental faculties first.
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