Three years after the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) declared the Upper East Region as leading in the country in open defecation, it appears the situation is still the same― or probably even worse.
This is because all thirteen municipalities and districts in the region have been awarded zero in the bad practice on the latest District League Table by the Centre for Democratic Development Ghana (CDD-Ghana). This came to light at a regional launch of the District League Table on Tuesday at Bolgatanga in the Upper East Region.
For some of the participants and residents, the latest standing has not come as a surprise.
“Actually, when they presented the results on the screen and I saw the zero, zero, I wasn’t happy but I wasn’t surprised because of our way of handling sanitation in Bolga. In fact, it’s not good. It is a serious matter,” Chief Issah Ibrahim, Executive Director of the Youth Needs and Welfare (INTYON), said.
Explaining why open defecation has remained an entrenched practice in the region, Project Manager for the Ghana Society of the Physically Disabled, David Aniah, said residents mostly avoid the use of public toilet facilities because “people think that because of tradition they don’t want their faeces to mix with other people’s faeces and people also think that going to the public toilet doesn’t make people feel good.”
Mr. Aniah added: “They think that open defecation brings comfort, you will get some sort of air blowing you. It’s not good at all that we should get zero. I think the authorities and we, as civil society organisations, still have a lot to do.”
In the view of UNICEF, the state has failed to ease the burden of the practice.
“We also realise that the state has failed in the sense that in the provision of toilets, we lack. When you look at the data from the Environmental Health from the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development and you’ll realise that very few districts are actually getting to that level where they can say that a number of citizens have access to toilet,” remarked UNICEF’s Social Policy Assistant, Afua Gyapomaa.
CDD-Ghana Research Officer, Mavis Zupork Dome, told Starr News winning the war against open defecation is possible but the pace is too slow.
“Nothing is impossible. It can be won. It’s an issue of behavioural change. And the pace is so slow. It’s so slow. I think that citizens need to get on board. Now we are just waiting on the government. But we should get on board because we actually have the card. We can stop open defecation; it’s not just the government. It’s our attitude and we providing toilet facilities in our homes that can stop open defecation. But the pace is really slow,” Mavis Zupork Dome observed.
A renowned Principal Pharmacy Technologist in the region, Noble Asakeya Alagskomah, said diseases related to open defecation have become a source of worry at health facilities in the region.
“You have other waterborne diseases. You have diarrhoea, cholera and the rest. Now, you go to health facilities, it’s choked. These are preventable diseases. But because we have little or no respect in personal hygiene, we create these problems, spend several man hours at health facilities and unfortunately most of the health facilities do not have enough health professionals,” he noted.