Monday, November 26, 2012

First CLTS stocktaking workshop held in Tamale


The first ever  three-day community led total sanitation (CLTS) stocktaking forum has been held in the Northern regional capital, Tamale, against the backdrop of Ghana’s deplorably low national sanitation coverage, which currently stands at 14%.
Theme for the forum held from November 20 to 22, 2012, just a day after the commemoration of World Toilet Day on November 19, 2012, for which a national durbar was incidentally held at the Jubilee Park in Tamale, was, “Achieving Open Defecation Free Ghana Through Effective Learning and Sharing”.
One of the very revealing statements made at the forum by operators in the CLTS programme, was that their efforts at ensuring Ghana becomes an open defecation free country are being hampered by the lack of logistics, especially means of transport.
On their part, regional, metropolitan, municipal and district environmental health officers, as well as CLTS focal persons, said they could not achieve the operation 1,500 Dodowa declaration targets, due to the late release of funds, lack of motor bikes for monitoring and the fact that it coincided with the farming season.
Although the government of Ghana has adopted the CLTS strategy as the approach to sanitation delivery, uptake has, at best been erratic, with 20 per cent of Ghanaians (almost 5 million) still practising open defecation on a daily basis; a practice CLTS is expected to bring to a halt.
The use of improved toilets has not fared any better, with more than half the country’s population (16 million Ghanaians) still depending on unsanitary or shared latrines to perform the basic natural function of emptying their bowels daily.
This, in many circles, has been considered a national shame on a country that prides itself as a middle income country and a leader on the African continent.
In Ghana, CLTS is currently being implemented in five regions - the Volta, Central, Northern, Upper East and Upper West regions, with the last three presently experiencing an average open defecation rate of more than 70 per cent.

On the national open defecation chart, according to a 2008 assessment by the Water and Sanitation Monitoring Platform (WSMP), the Upper East Region tops with 81.9 per cent, followed by Upper West with 78.7 per cent.

The Northern Region is third with a rate of 72.9 per cent, followed by the Central Region as the fourth highest on the table with 18.1 per cent, while the Volta Region places fifth with 13.8 per cent. It is thus no wonder that the five regions have been selected for the CLTS programme – they are the top five open defecation areas in the country. 
Participants at the forum, who were drawn from both regional and district offices of the Environmental Health and Sanitation Directorate (EHSD) of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, as well as CLTS focal persons, NGOs and development partners, listened to the success stories of the regions doing relatively well in implementing CLTS, while finding ways of tackling the critical challenges militating against the successful implementation of the strategy.
Meanwhile, as a result of the poor sanitation coverage in Ghana, sanitation related diseases such as cholera, diarrhoea and dysentery among others, have become a regular feature in the country, leading to thousands of needless deaths, especially of children under five years of age.
Available statistics say about 2,000 children die daily from sanitation related diseases globally, and it is believed that the stepping up of community led total sanitation (CLTS), would do the country a lot of good by encouraging communities to take their sanitation destiny into their own hands.
The forum was organised by the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, Environmental Health and Sanitation Directorate, in collaboration with WASH stakeholders and sponsored by WaterAid in Ghana, UNICEF, USAID and CIDA among others.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Over 10 million Ghanaian women, girls lack adequate sanitation

A female public toilet in Ghana
Over eight in ten women in Ghana have no access to a safe toilet, which threatens their health and exposes them to shame, fear and even violence, says WaterAid in Ghana, a non-governmental organisation in water, sanitation and hygiene.
In a statement released on World Toilet Day commemorated globally on Monday, November 19, 2012, the organisation said currently in Ghana, a total of 10.5 million women and girls lack safe and adequate sanitation, out of which 2.3 million don’t have access to a toilet at all.
This then suggests that 2.3 million of the 4.8 million Ghanaian populace that currently practice open defecation every day, are women and girls.
Globally however, more than one in three (1.25 billion) women in the world lack access to safe sanitation, out of which 526 million of them practice open defecation.  
On what the current state portends for Ghana’s female population, WaterAid states: “Lack of decent sanitation also affects productivity and livelihoods. Women and girls living in Ghana without toilet facilities spend 425 million hours each year finding a place to go in the open.”
It adds that poor hygiene has serious implications on health, with 3,600 mothers in Ghana losing a child to diarrhoeal diseases caused by a lack of adequate sanitation and clean water every year.
Obtainable statistics show that currently around 2,000 children die every day from diseases caused by dirty water and poor sanitation.
Commenting on the situation, Dr. Afia Zakiya, WaterAid in Ghana’s Country Representative, said: “When women don’t have a safe, secure and private place to go to the toilet they are exposed and put in a vulnerable position and when they relieve themselves in the open they risk harassment. Women are reluctant to talk about it or complain, but the world cannot continue to ignore this.”
Confirming this, a survey commissioned by WaterAid of women living across five slums in Lagos, Nigeria, showed that one in five had first or second hand experience of verbal harassment and intimidation, or had been threatened or physically assaulted in the last year when going to the toilet.
This figure may however be high, according to anecdotal evidence from communities around the world.
Studies have also been conducted in Uganda, Kenya, India and the Solomon Islands, which show that experiences of fear, indignity and violence are common place wherever women lack access to safe and adequate sanitation.
Among others, the polls showed that the most common location for women accessing sanitation facilities was ‘informal outside location’ (40%) as compared to a toilet within their own home (33%), public toilet in the area where they live (19%) or public toilet at their place of work (6%).
Sixty-eight out of 100 women also agreed that the cost of accessing public toilets was a problem for them, while sixty-one out of hundred agreed that the public toilets that they normally used were unhygienic.
At present, one in eight of the world’s population (783 million people) live without safe water, while 39 out of every 100 people (2.5 billion people) live without sanitation.
Dr. Afia Zakiya making her presentation at Tamale. Pix: Peter Serinye
Meanwhile, according to a briefing presented by Dr. Afia Zakiya at Ghana’s commemoration of World Toilet Day in Tamale, Monday, November 19, 2012, at current rates of progress, it will be over 165 years before Sub-Saharan Africa meets its sanitation MDG target, and another 350 years to get to universal access. 
She said for South Asia, it will be over 25 years before it meets its sanitation MDG target, and nearly 70 years to get universal access at current rates of progress.

WaterAid’s Country Representative further disclosed that s
ince 1990, around 900 million women and girls have gained access to safe sanitation facilities, while over a billion have gained access to clean drinking water

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Kumasi launches faecal-sludge-to-biodiesel fuel plant today


Improper disposal of faecal sludge in Ghana

To commemorate World Toilet Day today, November 19, 2012 and also help solve an age-old problem of the proper disposal of  faecal sludge, a multi-national team will today launch a groundbreaking research facility that transforms human waste into renewable biodiesel fuel in Kumasi, the Ashanti Regional capital of Ghana.

A joint effort by researchers at Columbia University’s Engineering School working in Ghana with Waste Enterprisers Ltd., the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), and the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly, the pilot facility is expected to produce renewable, cost-effective and sustainable energy.

Currently, the team is scaling up its research efforts initiated in the Columbia University Engineering lab, and expects the facility to become a revolutionary new model in sanitation, especially across the developing world.

According to the team of researchers, today’s launch of the pilot phase is a major milestone in the pioneering project, which is now entering its second year.

Funded through a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the project is led by Kartik Chandran, an associate professor of Earth and Environmental Engineering at Columbia University’s school of engineering and applied science and Ashley Murray, Founder and CEO of Waste Enterprisers Ltd, a Ghanaian company that is working to reinvent the economics of sanitation in the developing world.

As part of the project, Chandran is developing an innovative technology to transform faecal sludge into biodiesel fuel and is working on converting a waste-processing facility into a bio refinery.

Commenting on the facility, Chandran said, “This is a very exciting project for us. We are aiming to create a next-generation urban sanitation facility that will set new standards and serve as a model around the world.”
He added that “With the capacity to receive and treat 10,000 liters, or 2500 gallons ( a full sanitation truck carrying concentrated faecal matter from at least 5,000 people) of faecal sludge per day, this facility reaches way beyond the lab scale.

Meanwhile, in the pilot phase, expected to last 12 months, the researchers will be testing Chandran’s bioprocess technology for converting the organic compounds present in faecal sludge to biodiesel and methane, two potent sources of renewable energy.

Touching on the motivation for the project, Murray said; “Our goal is to develop a revenue-generating faecal-sludge-to-biodiesel facility that can transform sanitation from an expensive burden into a profitable venture.”

“If we figure out a way to make waste management profitable, governments and citizens that currently bear the financial, environmental, and public health costs will all be better off,” he  stated.

Chandran and Murray are working closely with several of the associate professor’s students at KNUST along with a team of process engineers, to improve the biodiesel yield from faecal sludge and explore the commercial viability of a business model based on creating biodiesel from human waste.

Speaking on this aspect, Murray opines; “This project is about more than a technology breakthrough, it’s about creating economically sustainable approaches to waste management that can eliminate the sanitation crisis in developing cities.”

Expressing their gratefulness to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for their recognition of the critical importance of sustainable sanitation across the globe, especially in developing countries, Chandran adds; “We hope our model can be replicated and adapted around the world.”

For his part, Anthony Mensah, Waste Management Director for the city of Kumasi believes “The faecal sludge to biodiesel pilot project could potentially address sustainable sanitation and introduce a new dimension into the sanitation value chain, not only in Kumasi but globally,” saying “The Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly is therefore delighted to be part of this novel partnership.”

WaterAid urges Ghana Government to keep promises on water and sanitation

Dr. Afia Zakiya
We don’t want vain promises on water and sanitation. When you make promises keep them because people are dying from the lack of these basics of life.
Today, this message will be one of many that hundreds of thousands of people from across the globe, including Ghana, will be sharing with their governments, to push for better sanitation, water and hygiene services and facilities.
WaterAid in Ghana, an international NGO headquartered in the UK, will be joining people across the globe in calling for an end to unfulfilled promises on providing access to safe sanitation and clean water, as the international charity launches its Keep Your Promises campaign.

Friday, November 16, 2012

HSBC supports Ghana, five others with US$ 25 million

Team Lead Sue Alexander and Dr. Afia Zakiya, WAG Country Representative

HSBC Holdings Plc, one of the world’s largest financial service organisations with over 6,900 branches in about 88 countries, has committed US$ 25 million to support Ghana and five other countries provide safe water and improved sanitation to 1.1 million and 1.9 million respectively, of their marginalised and poor people.

According to HSBC, Ghana will receive support of over US$ 3 million to enable the country provide safe water and improved sanitation to over 100,000 people.

The amount, which will be spread over five years, forms part of a total of US$ 100 million the bank has set aside to assist a host of countries where three partners - WaterAid, the Worldwide Wildlife Fund and Earthwatch  Institute are operating, through its Water Programme.

Partnering the bank from Ghana to provide improved water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services in five selected districts of the country, is WaterAid in Ghana, a non-governmental development organisation with more than 27 years of experience in providing WASH services in the country.

Ghana and Nigeria in Africa, India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan in Asia, are the WaterAid countries to benefit from the five-year facility from the HSBC Bank.

These came to light, during an interaction Thursday, November 15, 2012 in Accra, with a seven-member HSBC global team that was on a visit to Ghana from November 10, 2012 to November 17, 2012.

The visit was specifically to two of the selected districts (Birim North and Kwahu North in the Eastern Region), where WaterAid in Ghana with support from HSBC, is starting work to improve access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene.

The team also visited established WaterAid projects to see the difference that safe water, sanitation and hygiene have already made to individuals, communities and local economies.

Other districts to benefit from the HSBC facility, are Tamale in the Northern Region, Bolgatanga in the Upper East Region and Wa in the Upper West Region.

Explaining what informed selection of the five districts the facility will cover, Mr. Ibrahim Musah, Head of Policy and Partnerships (HOPP), WaterAid in Ghana (WAG), told the selected team of five journalists belonging to the Ghana Watsan Journalists Network (GWJN), that they form part of 40 poorest districts identified in the country.

Commenting on the partnership with the HSBC Water Programme (HWP), he said “Working with the HSBC Water Programme over the next five years, we will bring safe water to over 120,000 people and sanitation to over 80,000 people,” which he disclosed is the largest singular support to be received from a partner in the history of WAG, and which will contribute 30% to the organisation’s user numbers.

“Together with HSBC and our local partners, communities will not only benefit from improved access to safe water and sanitation, they will also learn about hygiene and implementing and maintaining new infrastructure,” Ibrahim Musah stated, adding, “Access to sanitation, can help to restore dignity and, particularly for women, help to reduce discrimination and marginalisation.”

Answering a question on why HSBC chose to support WaterAid deliver safe water and sanitation services, Sue Alexander, HSBC’s Senior Manager of Environmental Programmes and leader of the team, for her part, recounted a statement made by a chief in one of the communities visited.

“‘He said to us, if you bring our community water you bring them life’, and I was very struck by that – this is going to be one of the communities that we will be supporting in Birim North, and to me that very succinctly sums up what the HSBC is thinking.”

“We believe that if you give people the basic necessities of life, that will then encourage them, and enable them to make the most to reach their full potential. So we would like to support the whole five-year programme with US$ 100 million. And it is all about supporting people throughout their lives and their livelihoods,” Sue Alexander said.

She further intimated that the decision to support the areas selected in Africa and Asia was arrived at, after deliberations with WaterAid International on the areas of the most need.

Apart from WaterAid, the HSBC Water Programme’s collaboration with the Earthwatch Institute and Worldwide Wildlife Fund (WWF) will enable support to research projects on water in 20 cities and practices/policies that help protect five river basins.  

HSBC team with some WaterAid, UK and Ghana staff
Thanking the HSBC global team for their support to WaterAid in Ghana’s country programme and the people of Ghana “who are suffering the most from WASH poverty,” Dr. Afia Zakiya, Country Representative, WAG, said “In spite [of] being a middle income country and the benevolence of countries, there is still great inequities in terms of access and provision to safe clean water and sanitation services.”
She told the visiting team that in terms of coverage, sanitation is only at 14%, while water is about 74%, stating, “Particularly in the North where the HSBC Programme will reach thousands of people, we have a very big problem with open defecation.”

Dr. Zakiya however submitted that the figures do not tell the inequalities in the region based on gender and other factors, which are key variables that WAG looks at, in the equity and inclusion principles that guide the nature of work that they do.  

HSBC Holdings Plc currently serves around 60 million customers through its four global businesses: Retail Banking and Wealth Management, Commercial Banking, Global Banking and Markets, and Global Private Banking.

It is also listed on the London, Hong Kong, New York, Paris and Bermuda stock exchanges, while its shares are held by over 221,000 shareholders in 134 countries and territories.

One million Burkinabes to benefit from FCFA 90.5bn sanitation project


It is estimated that one million of Burkina Faso’s population living in the capital, Ouagadougou, will benefit from a large sanitation project estimated to cost FCFA 90.5 billion (€138 million).
The project, which takes off in earnest in 2013 and expected to be completed in 2017, was the subject of feasibility studies funded by the African Water Facility (AWF), which provided €647,000, covering 88 per cent of the costs of the preparatory work completed in August 2011.
Of paramount importance to Ouagadougou, in light of the tragic flood of September 1, 2009 which left thousands homeless, the Burkinabe capital city’s authority hopes to implement a sanitation system resilient to the increasingly devastating floods they have been recurrently facing in recent years due to climate change.
To mobilise the funds for construction of the planned infrastructure, Ouagadougou’s City Council on Tuesday, November 13, 2012, organised a donor roundtable, at which representatives of various local, regional and international development agencies and from different levels of Government discussed funding of the sanitation project in the peri-urban areas of Ouagadougou.
Represented at the meeting were the Africa Water Facility (AWF), African Development Bank (AfDB), the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa, the French Development Agency, the German Development Bank (KfW), the Islamic Development Bank, OFID (former Fund of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries), UN-Habitat, WaterAid, Water and Sanitation Agency Africa, the West African Development Bank and the World Bank.
Commenting on their participation in the project, Akissa Bahri, Coordinator of the African Water Facility, said, “We are proud to be associated with this initiative and confident in the leadership of the city to carry out such an important and promising project.”
“We hope the financial partners will also support this project, which should benefit a wide range of citizens, including youth, women and the poorest people of the suburbs, providing them with a better living environment,” he added.
Meanwhile, the African Development Bank (AfDB), has already committed to funding the project up to €26 million (FCFA 17 billion) to begin the works as early as 2013, adding to the €8 million (FCFA 5 billion ) committed by the Government of Burkina Faso, and the €1.5 million (FCFA 1 billion) invested by the Municipality of Ouagadougou.
The city is now seeking to fill the €103 million (FCFA 67.5 billion) gap with other financial partners, most of whom expressed interest in the project during the roundtable stage.
Currently, Burkina Faso and the City of Ouagadougou are important partners of the African Water Facility.
Burkina Faso also recently joined the group of donors of the African Water Facility by making a contribution of €80,000, which demonstrates the country’s commitment to promoting the development of the water sector, both at home and across the continent.
The AWF is an initiative of the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW) hosted by the African Development Bank (AfDB) and established in 2004 as a Special Water Fund to help African countries achieve the objectives of the Africa Water Vision 2025.
It offers grants from €50,000 to €5 million, to support projects aligned with its mission and strategy to a wide range of institutions and organisations operating in Africa.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Kenya loses US$ 145 million to deforestation in two years


A joint Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and UN Environment Programme (UNEP) report released Monday, November 5, 2012, has revealed that deforestation deprived Kenya’s economy of 6.6 billion shillings (US$ 77million) in 2009 and 5.8 billion shillings ($US 68 million) in 2010, making it a total of US$ 145 in just two years.
This, according to the report, far outstrips the roughly 1.3 billion shillings injected from forestry and logging each year. 
However, the ongoing work of the KFS, together with the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) and international partners, says that the contribution of forests is undervalued by 2.5 per cent, putting the estimate of its annual contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at around 3.6 per cent.
The report found the main reasons for deforestation to be multiple and complex spanning  from unregulated charcoal production, logging of indigenous trees, marijuana cultivation, and cultivated fields in the indigenous forest to shamba-system practices, livestock grazing, quarry landslides and human settlements.
It also states that while fuel wood and charcoal represent the most important energy source for the population at 75 per cent, the forestry sector creates both formal and informal job opportunities, especially in rural areas. 
“As a result, deforestation has largely been driven by private consumption, as the demand of households has doubled within the last ten years. This number is also underestimated as it does not incorporate the informal sector, which has been expanding, particularly in rural areas where firewood is collected for free or exchanged for other goods,” a release from KFS and UNEP said. 
According to the release, although forest products bring in one-off cash to the national economy, they encourage illegal deforestation activities and create huge economic damage through the loss of regulating services.  
Quantifying the negative economic consequences of deforestation, the report indicates that 
by 2010, the cumulative negative effect of deforestation on the Kenyan economy through reduction in regulating services, was an estimated KSh 3,650 million per year, more than four times the cash revenue of deforestation;
Deforestation also decreased river flows in the dry season and reduced water supply to irrigation agriculture, at a cost of 1.5 billion shillings to the sector in 2010, while 
reduced river flows also reduced hydropower generation by eight million shillings, producing a multiplier effect on the rest of the economy through power shortages (46 per cent of Kenya’s power comes from hydro generation).
Further, increased wet-season flows led to erosion and sedimentation, resulting in a loss of productive soil resources, which in turn increased nutrient content in fresh water systems, causing siltation and increasing turbidity of water supplies.
This reduction in water quality reduced inland fish catch by 86 million shillings and increased the cost of water treatment for potable use by 192 million shillings in 2010. 
The report also indicates the incidence of malaria as a result of deforestation is estimated to have cost 237 million shillings by 2010, in the form of health costs to the government and losses in labour productivity. 
Meanwhile, the above-ground carbon storage value forgone through deforestation was estimated at 511 million shillings in 2010 (calculated at a value of US$6 per ton under the REDD+ scheme). 
Commenting on the report titled ‘The Role and Contribution of Montane Forests and Related Ecosystem Services to the Kenyan Economy’ which was launched at the beginning of the Kenya Water Towers, Forests and Green Economy National Dialogue, Hon. Dr. Noah Wekesa, Kenya’s Minister of Forestry and Wildlife, said it marked a new phase in efforts to conserve the vital ecosystem services provided by Kenya’s forests. 
He stated that “The value of the Mau Forest’s ecosystem services to the Kenyan economy previously calculated by UNEP has already catalysed a response to conserve and rehabilitate this vital resource,” adding, “This shows we have already acknowledged the importance of forests. However, this new report quantifies the massive scale of the economic damage deforestation brings and shows much more needs to be done nation-wide.”
Incidentally, the Kenyan government has already recognised the value of its forests, and is working on the rehabilitation of the Mau Forest Complex. Over the last one-and-a-half years, more than 21,000 hectares of forestland have been repossessed, and 10,000 hectares have been rehabilitated by the Government of Kenya and partners. 
Also, a number of programmes and activities have been started to improve the livelihoods of communities living adjacent to the forest and address the situation of the forest-dwelling communities, in particular the Ogiek. 
It was with the view to expanding efforts to all water towers, that the Government of Kenya gazetted the Kenya Water Towers Agency on 13 April 2012, which will take over the responsibilities of the Mau Secretariat and be responsible for coordinating and supervising the rehabilitation, conservation and management of Kenyan water towers. 
Kenya’s five water towers - Mau Forest Complex, Mount Kenya, the Aberdares, Mount Elgon and Cherangani – feed filtered rainwater to rivers and lakes and provide more than 15,800 million cubic metres of water per year, which represents over 75 per cent of the country’s renewable surface water resources. 
These forests store water during the rainy season and release it slowly, thus ensuring water flow during dry periods. The forests thus provide resilience to seasonal environmental and economic changes and long-term economic hazards like climate change.
Aside from timber and fuel they also bring benefits to the agriculture, forestry and fishing sectors; the electricity and water sectors; the hotels and accommodation sector; and the public administration and defense sector. 
Yet between 2000 and 2010, deforestation in the water towers amounted to an estimated 28,427 hectares, leading to reduced water availability of approximately 62 million cubic metres per year to Kenya’s economy which is highly vulnerable to water availability. Inflation spiked above 10 per cent on three occasions between 2000 and 2010, each time driven by drought combined with increasing crude oil prices and weaker exchange rates. 
Commending Kenya for the steps taken so far to remedy the deforestation situation, Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director said; "Kenya is today underlining its determination to be among a group of pioneering countries putting its nature-based assets at the centre of its sustainable development ambitions”. 
“The findings of this report are based on the best international analytical methods and the latest environmental and economic evidence - it is these kinds of cutting-edge assessments that are inspiring more and more countries in Africa and beyond towards the opportunities presented in a transition to an inclusive Green Economy," he added. 
The report makes a host of recommendations including incorporating sustainable actions such as selective thinning regimes, protection against uncontrolled settlements, adequate allocation and policing of water withdrawals and improved management of degraded land. 
It also tasks the government to ensure that Kenya has in place a fully functioning forest resource account, in order to capture the various benefits provided by forests.
It also advocates stronger regulation of forest use, such as the enacting of farm forestry, forest harvesting and charcoal regulations promulgated in 2009, which represent an important step in the right direction and needs to be pursued. 
Kenya’ policy makers are also to encourage investment in the forestry sector, in order to increase the efficiency in production, especially in sawn timber and charcoal production and 
address the growing trend of dependence on imports of forest products, which constituted more than 50 per cent of domestic output for the year 2009.
They are also to ensure adequate regeneration after harvest and an increased forest plantation growth in the long term, together with a better coordination of regulating institutions, producers and consumers of forest products and further mainstream instruments and incentives such as payment for ecosystem services, trading and insurance schemes. 
Meanwhile, forests in Kenya also represent a great opportunity in terms of carbon storage and the use of carbon trading schemes, the report found. 
The economic analysis also lends weight to the Inclusive Wealth Index, a joint initiative by the United Nations University International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (UNU-IHDP) and UNEP. 
Launched at Rio+20, the index is a new indicator which looks beyond (Gross Domestic Product) GDP to include natural and human capital, thus encouraging governments to implement policies that encourage sustainable use of natural resources.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Open defecation, shared latrines in Ghana, one of the highest in the world - EHSD

Pals defecating in the Paloma storm drain in Accra

A Programme Officer of the Environmental Health and Sanitation Directorate (EHSD) of Ghana’s Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, Mr. Kweku Quansah, has stated that the rate of open defecation in the country ranks among the highest in the world.

Currently, 19 out of every 100 Ghanaians openly defecate daily, either in the morning or evening or both, bringing the total figure to about five million a day.

Ghana loses $79 million annually as a result of open defecation, according to figures released by the Water and Sanitation Programme of the World Bank in April 2012, making the country the fifth highest among 18 African countries analysed by the bank.

Explaining the genesis of the trend, Mr. Quansah, who bewailed that it is one of the colonial legacies bequeathed to Ghana, said it all began when in colonial times owning a toilet was seen as a prestige and something for the affluent in society.

In an exclusive interview conducted recently, the programme officer said; “It all started from the pre-colonial era, when the then colonial masters thought latrines was a privilege, it’s for the high class and they rather built communal latrines for people to use instead of encouraging them to have their own latrines.

“It started from there and they started using latrines as something free – I don’t need to waste money on it – rather, somebody must pay for it. Then it came to public latrines where fees were charged for people to access those latrines.

“It got to a time when we privatised it to fully commercial so it became too expensive for people to access – all these put together and the fact that generally Ghanaians are difficult people and behaviour change is a big issue, gives that result we are seeing now – high percentage of people who share latrines, high percentage of people who don’t have latrines at all and high percentage of people who practice open defecation,” he lamented.

That notwithstanding, he said it has been noted that some people generally take delight in openly defecating. “The bottom line is that people take delight in defecating openly – culturally and habitually people feel when they go to open spaces, behind people’s houses, along the beaches, river banks etc to defecate they have free air.”

“The other side is that people genuinely don’t have any place to defecate – it is the only option that they have. Another dimension is the fact that the toilets they are using are so dirty that they cannot use the toilets,” Mr. Quansah added, explaining that these are the three main factors informing the high incidence of open defecation in Ghana.

To help counteract the practise, the EHSD programme officer disclosed that a national award scheme has been instituted by his outfit, to reward communities in the country which obtain open defecation free (ODF) status on November 19 every year, a date designated by the World Toilet Organisation as World Toilet Day.

“And I feel it is another way of encouraging and motivating communities on their own to stop open defecation, because the implication of open defecation is too serious in tourism, on the health of the people, in productivity and economics, to the extent that we cannot afford to, but rather stop people from openly defecating, ” he opined.

To Kweku Quansah, people must be stopped from openly defecating or else they will never come up with strategies to build their own latrines when there are open spaces for them to ease themselves anytime they want to attend nature’s call.

The seriousness of the situation is that children are learning the practice from the adults, he said. “Seriously the children are learning those habits, because for a typical community or public latrine that is commercialised, a child will not have the money, therefore when he gets there and is not allowed to enter, he will just do it behind the structure.”

He thus recommended that in fashioning out a policy on open defecation, the child factor must be looked at, while it must be insisted that public toilets are only built for transient populations and the building of individual household toilets encouraged, while flexible arrangements must be made for co-sharing of some individual latrines.

Mr. Quansah however admitted that currently, the incidence of shared latrines in Ghana is one of the highest in the world. “It is  a very big issue – close to 58% of Ghanaians share latrines,” he divulged.

The programme officer stressed though, that if the country must make any headway in sanitation coverage it must start from curbing open defecation, the absence of latrines and the use of unimproved latrines, before tackling shared latrines, by encouraging people to own improved latrines.

Currently only 15 out of 100 Ghanaians have improved latrines according to the Multi Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) released recently.

5 million Ghanaians defecate openly daily, 1.1bn globally

A Ghanaian practicing open defecation in a storm drain in Accra

Accra, the capital of the Republic of Ghana, in the West Africa sub-region, is a city widely known for its very modern infrastructure, which includes beautiful architecture and a very good road network and flyovers, including the recent but famed George Walker Bush Motorway, which stretches from the Tetteh Quarshie Roundabout to Mallam junction.

The city also boasts of a very modern international airport, the Kotoka International Airport near the roundabout, which handles an average of about 4,888 passengers on a daily basis, if the total of 1.784 million passengers who went through the airport in 2011 is anything to go by (By 2013 it is expected that expansion works will increase the annual passenger population to 5.2 million).

Adding to the city’s attractions are plush residential areas such as Trasaaco estate, Manet estate, East and West Legon, Roman Ridge, Ridge, Dzorwulu, Cantonments and Labone, just to mention a few.

This and many more, are the admiration of many a visitor to the capital and other cities and towns, who arrive from all parts of the world through the country’s only but very beautiful and busy international airport, as well as border towns such as Aflao in the Volta Region and Elubo in the Western Region among others.

Indeed, it is not only the infrastructure of Accra that visitors to the capital and first timers to Ghana admire, but the country’s warm people and tasty and spicy cuisine. Many nationals experience a ‘love at first taste’ relationship with most Ghanaian dishes.

Yes! Ghana has been aptly described as the “Gateway to Africa”, a good place to do business in Africa because of its very stable political climate, among others.

Open defecation practiced with careless abandon

However, what may shock many visitors to Ghana, especially those from the Diaspora, is the awful sight of able-bodied men and women as well as children busily defecating along some of the country’s beautiful beaches that are the attraction to many tourists, inside big drains and at dump sites, especially in the mornings and at dusk, mostly in the capital cities of the 10 regions, including the administrative and commercial capital - Accra.

Rural folks also indulge in open defecation, albeit in bushes at the outskirts of their communities and along footpaths for those afraid to venture deep into the bush for fear of being bitten by a reptile or attacked by wild animals or fellow humans.

In fact, during a recent encounter with an indigene of a community in the Northern Region of Ghana where open defecation is rife – Tindang Peliga, Madam Ayishetu Kofi, the women’s leader, said “Whenever we go to the bush we are exposed to danger from both snakes and men.”

Current statistics from a 2008 assessment by the Water and Sanitation Monitoring Platform (WSMP), Ghana, indicates that about five million Ghanaians defecate openly daily, with the Upper East Region topping with 81.9%, followed by Upper West with 78.7%.

Ghanaians love the game of football very much, especially when the national team – Black Stars is playing against another national team in a qualifier, friendly or world tournament.

One of the country’s national stadia – the Accra Sports Stadium rechristened Ohene Djan sports stadium, has a capacity of 40,000. Can you imagine 125 stadiums of that size and capacity jam-packed with people all defecating onto the pitch at the same time?

Ah! Disgusting you would say. But that is what happens on a daily basis in Ghana according to available statistics and the country will need to build a million toilets to curb the practice.

The Northern Region of the country is listed as having the third highest open defecation rate in Ghana at 72.9%, meaning about 73 out of every 100 persons openly ease themselves on a daily basis.

The Central Region is the fourth highest on the table with 18.1% and Volta Region fifth with 13.8%.  

Placing sixth is the Western Region with 12.8%; Greater Accra, seventh with 8.1%; Brong Ahafo, eighth with 6.4%; Eastern Region, ninth with 5.5%, and Ashanti Region, tenth and the lowest, with 3.4%.

Confirming the number of Ghanaians who defecate daily, is a desk study released by the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Programme (WSP) on April 17, 2012.

According to the study, 4.8 million Ghanaians have no latrine at all and defecate in the open, and that the poorest quintile (20% of the population) is 22 times more likely to practice open defection than the richest.

This figure however represents just a fraction of a total of 1.1 billion people worldwide who defecate daily because they do not have access to any form of toilet facility.

Top 12 countries that practice open defecation

India leads the pack of top 12 countries of the world that account for almost three-quarters of the people who practice open defecation.

Open defecation by an Indian in Mumbai
Also referred to as the world’s headquarters for open defecation, 626 million of the Asian populous state has more than twice the number of the next 18 countries combined; accounts for 90 per cent of the 692 million people in South Asia who practice open defecation and accounts for 59 per cent of the 1.1 billion people in the world who practice open defecation.

They are followed by Indonesia with 63 million doing open defecation, Pakistan  with 40 million, Ethiopia  with 38 million and Nigeria  with 34 million engaging in open defecation.

Sudan is sixth on the chart with 19 million having no access to toilets, followed by Nepal with 15 million of its people without access to toilets, then China in eighth position with 14 million, Niger at ninth place with 12 million, Burkina Faso at 10th with 9.7 million, Mozambique at 11th with 9.5 million without access to any form of toilets and Cambodia 12th with 8.6 million without toilet access.

Interestingly however, although according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) 23 countries practicing open defecation have shown a marked improvement from 1990 to 2006 with Nepal leading, having moved from 84 percent to 50 percent over the period and hence a 34 percent decrease, Ghana is nowhere on the table.

Ghana’s economic loses

The WSP study states further, that Ghana’s economy loses GH¢ 420 million (US$290 million, 1.6 percent of GDP) each year, due to poor sanitation.

Titled “Economic Impacts of Poor Sanitation in Africa – Ghana”, the desk study found that the majority (74 percent) of the costs come from the annual premature death of 19,000 Ghanaians from diarrhoea, including 5,100 children under the age of five (5), nearly 90 percent of which is directly attributable to poor water, sanitation, and hygiene.

Health-related costs accounted for nearly 19 percent of the total economic costs, while access time and productivity losses accounted for about seven (7) percent.

In his reaction to the figures, Yolande Coombes, senior water and sanitation specialist with WSP, stated “We’ve known for some time about the impact of poor sanitation on health, but this is one of the first studies to quantify the annual costs incurred because of poor sanitation,” adding “Ghana will not be able to grow sustainably without addressing these costs”.

Quoting from the Rural Sanitation Model and Strategy (R-SMS) of Ghana, the Coalition of NGOs in Water and Sanitation (CONIWAS), says the strategy estimates that open defecation alone costs Ghana US$ 79 million annually, and that US$ 215 million is lost each year to premature deaths emanating from diarrheal diseases - a direct consequence of the poor WASH situation.
Other scary figures attributable to poor WASH, according to the R-SMS, are that US$ 1.5 million is lost due to productivity losses while sick or accessing healthcare and US$ 54 million spent each year on health care.

Economic impacts of poor sanitation in Africa

But Ghana is not alone in economic loses. In its key messages, the World Bank study shows that open defecation alone accounts for almost US$ 2 billion in annual losses in 18 African countries which will require a total of 23,305,000 (23.3 million) toilets to curb the practice.

The countries analysed are Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Republic of Congo, Liberia, Madagascar, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.

"More than 114 million people still defecate in the open in the 18 countries analysed; this is about half the number of people on the continent who have no latrine at all and defecate in the open and almost 24% of the total population in the countries surveyed.”

"Eliminating the practice of open defecation in these countries would require about 23 million toilets to be built and used,” the report states.

Adding that open defecation costs more per person than any other type of unimproved sanitation, the report indicates further: "Each person without access to a toilet can spend up to 2.5 days a year finding a private location to defecate, resulting in losses totalling almost US$ 500 million in access time annually due to open defecation for the 18 countries surveyed.

The study also points out that "Women shoulder a huge proportion of this cost, as they spend additional time accompanying young children or sick or elderly relatives to relieve themselves, as well as time spent finding a safe place for urination.

The burden of poor sanitation falls disproportionately on the poor. "In all countries, the poorest people are more likely to practice open defecation than the wealthiest people”, "The poorest people have to pay disproportionately more for the negative effects of poor sanitation,” the study says.

The desk study discloses that the 18 African countries investigated, annually lose about US$ 5.5 billion due to poor sanitation.

"These countries account for 448 million people, which is almost half of Africa’s population; "The annual economic losses due to poor sanitation are equivalent to between 1% and 2.5% of GDP,” according to the study.

It however states that "The true cost could be much higher: these analyses only deal with losses due to premature deaths, healthcare costs, losses in productivity, and time lost through the practice of open defecation.”

"Other impacts of inadequate sanitation likely to be significant, but difficult and expensive to estimate and therefore not included, include the costs of epidemic outbreaks; losses in trade and tourism revenue; impact of unsafe excreta disposal on water resources; and the long-term effects of poor sanitation on early childhood development,” says the study.

Lack of investments in sanitation

Meanwhile, in most countries, current investments in sanitation are less than 0.1% of GDP, according to available figures.

Additionally, "According to the 2011 eThekwini commitments monitoring carried out by countries, currently only five of the 18 countries analysed invest more than 0.1% of GDP in sanitation, while most countries invest less than 0.1% of GDP,” the report indicates.

It says "Although African countries committed to increase their budgetary allocations for sanitation to at least 0.5% of GDP (eThekwini Declaration, 2008), none of the 18 countries surveyed has reached that target yet.

These findings make a strong case for increased investments in sanitation, increased attention to the bottlenecks constraining delivery of sanitation services, specific pro-poor policies, and the elimination of open defecation, the World Bank desk study recommends.

Why we openly defecate

In a bid to find out why people openly defecate despite the shame associated with exposure during the act, the Ghana Watsan Journalists Network (GWJN) in 2010 embarked on a year-long campaign dubbed “Drop it in a hole”, during which some notorious sites noted for open defecation were visited and interviews conducted.

60-year-old Harisu Mohammed explained that there is no toilet facility where he lives and the nearest public facility is about 30 minutes walk from the compound house he shares with many other tenants, hence his resort to the open storm drain every day on his way to work.

For his part, 31-year-old Kweku Nyarko an apprentice driver who had also just finished emptying his bowels inside the same open storm drain just behind a very popular hotel, said his main reason was the lack of access to a facility in his rented residence.

He said he lives in Kokomlemle, a suburb of Accra with about 40 tenants but with no toilet facility with the nearest public toilet about seven minutes walk from where he lives.

“It is more convenient to do it in the gutter and a large number of my colleagues do the same and when we have stomach upset we defecate into black polythene backs and throw them into the drain,” he said.

Any hope in sight?

In an exclusive interview with a Programmes Officer of the Environmental Health and Sanitation Directorate (EHSD), Mr. Kweku Quansah at the fringes of the recently held national durbar in Accra to commemorate Global Handwashing Day,  he said in order to tackle the issue of open defecation in Ghana, the media must be used to educate the populace.

“For me the way forward is to critically look at mass media campaigns and one-on-one campaigns, adding it to what we call community-led total sanitation.”

“Within the embodiment of community led total sanitation we have behaviour change, where we lead people to appreciate that there is the need to stop open defecation, and I can assure you, open defecation is so dangerous that 5,100 Ghanaian children die every year as a result of people eating faeces and getting diarrhoea etc,” he added.

Mr. Kweku Quansah, who was so full of praise for the people of the Upper West Region of Ghana where open defecation is rife, for taking the initiative to build household latrines through community-led total sanitation, urged the media to join in the crusade against open defecation, since it is one sure way of curbing the menace.

For urban areas though, he urged city authorities to enforce the sanitation by-laws, especially that which makes it mandatory for house owners and landlords to include toilets in their buildings.

“In the bigger cities, our building regulations tell us that if you build a house you should provide latrine, therefore there is the need for us to enforce those regulations,” he stressed.

Sanitation is a human right
For its part, the United Nations maintains the majority of the world’s 1.1 billion people who practice open defecation are living in rural areas, and because they have no private place to defecate and urinate; they use fields and bushes, ditches or railway tracks, or simply a plastic bag.
For them, sanitation is about dignity and ultimately human rights, the UN body states. 

In 2010, the UN General Assembly recognised sanitation and water as a human right, essential to the full enjoyment of life and all other human rights. This breakthrough decision not only provides a major argument to all those sanitation advocates; it constitutes an important step towards turning these rights into a reality for everyone. 

The human rights approach is particularly concerned with the people who do not have access to safe sanitation. It looks at the reasons why, and tries to find ways to overcome those barriers. It seeks to address inequalities by targeting the most vulnerable, such as women, children, people with disabilities, the chronically ill or the poorest of the poor. 

Governments that have recognised the right to sanitation have, by doing so, signed up to establishing a plan of action and agreed to take concrete steps to ensure that, over time, all people gain access to sanitation – this is known as “progressive realisation”, says the UN.

If the world is really serious about turning this right into a reality, though, more, and concerted action is needed. Not only politicians, but also businesses, donors, development agencies, NGOs, media and communities will need to redouble their commitments and efforts, the world body maintains.

The way forward

Perhaps a statement by Catarina de Albuquerque, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to safe drinking water and sanitation in 2011 that “ Ensuring access to sanitation for all, which is safe, affordable, acceptable and sufficient, requires multiple interventions from different stakeholders, leadership, an enabling environment, and an engaged population willing and able to claim their rights,” needs to be considered, if the canker of open defecation in Ghana, Africa and the world is to be dealt a severe blow.

For after all, as great Indian Leader Mahatma Gandhi said in 1925, “ Sanitation is more important than independence.”

A special feature geared towards the commemoration of World Toilet Day on November 19, 2012

GJA 2010 Award Winners

GJA 2010 Award Winners
Dzifa, Emelia and Gertrude

GJA 2011 Award Winners

GJA 2011 Award Winners
GWJN's 2011 GJA Award-Winning Team

New WASH-JN Executives

New WASH-JN Executives
They are from left - Edmund, Ghana, Aminata: Guinea, Alain: Benin, Paule: Senegal and Ousman: Niger

Celebrating Award

Celebrating Award
The benefits of Award Winning!

Hard Work Pays!

Hard Work Pays!
In a pose with my plaque