You are here: HomeNews2021 03 12Article 1202998

Opinions of Friday, 12 March 2021

Columnist: Arkoh Isaac

A changed attitude, key to tackling environmental sanitation menace

File photo of plastic waste File photo of plastic waste

Ghana is one of the developing countries in West Africa that is having a difficult time with the menace of poor environmental sanitation. Current practices and perceptions of domestic and personal hygiene in most communities coupled with existing levels of environmental sanitation pose health risk.

Though access to improved sanitation significantly impact on human health, dignity, security and well-being, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF, estimates that less than a quarter of the Ghanaian population have access to improved sanitation.

Environmental sanitation in Ghana

The environmental sanitation situation in Ghana leaves much to be desired. The poor hygienic practices by individuals and communities are compounded by insufficient and ineffective hygiene education. The sanitation problems span from pollution of water resources to inadequately managed waste.

Jacob Zanu is a Senior Nutrition Officer and Quality Improvement Coach at the Agortime District Health Directorate of the Ghana Health Service (GHS). He describes the sanitation in most communities in the country as disgusting saying, it needed a collective efforts to remedy the situation.

Waste management, he noted played a very critical role in improved sanitation but lamented how it has been has been poor in the country.

“There is poor waste management system and as such refuse are dumped at individual backyards or openly at a community dumping sites which are poorly maintained while open deification persisted in most communities”, Mr Zenu stated.
Mr William Freeman Goku, the Central Regional Environmental Officer says about 69.8 percent of 1,303 metric tons of solid waste generated in the region remain uncollected.

The situation, he said may not be different from other regions and bemoaned that the uncollected refuse found their way into unauthorized places to further denigrate the already degraded environment.

Many households are still without toilet facilities culminating into increased indiscriminate open defecation which is having a negative effect on the health of the citizenry.

However, Mr Goku talks about his outfits resolve to ensure that landlords provided toilet facilities in their properties to rid the region of filth.

Mr Zanu talks about a worry situation where Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) have not received much investment in the country.

“In the early period of the COVID-19 pandemic, our leaders provided several WASH facilities but as time went by, that commitment has been lax”

Sanitation and hygiene, Mr Zenu explained has to be done with a multi-sectorial approach where individuals, community, cooperate organisations, department and agencies were brought on board. This, he said the country’s environmental sanitation policy fails to adequately addressed.

As a result, he noted that individuals have become less concern about sanitation issues and were regularly throwing rubbish anyhow while that law has not been really enforce at all.

For his part, Mr John Kwesi Bamford, an opinion leader at Abeadze Dominase, a community in the Mfantseman Municipality of the Central Region blames the poor environmental sanitation on the attitude of the citizenry.

Though he admits that successive governments have not done much in addressing the situation, people ought to know netter to keep their surroundings and communities clean.

“We are all Christians and the Bible tells us that cleanliness is next to Godliness. So why are we still not keeping our surroundings clean’,

A number of Ghanaians interviewed for the purpose of this article shared a similar sentiment and called for a behavioral change.

Challenges

Mr Goku blamed the situation on the negative attitudes of people towards sanitation and inadequate resource allocation for sanitation, monitoring health and hygiene standards, investigation and enforcing health and hygiene legislation.

Other challenges are difficulties with refuse container sitting, frequent breakdown of vehicles and attitudinal dilemma of Ghanaians resulting in indiscriminate waste disposal and the consequence thereof.

Way-forward.

Addressing the poor environmental sanitation situation has become more imperative now than ever with the existence of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) which experts have emphasised required good sanitation practices to deal with.

Sanitation, according to Mr Zanu is a public good and its impact affects everyone regardless of ethnicity, age, gender or religion. Therefore, he says it behooves on all to come on board to tackle the poor sanitation condition in the country.

A collective responsibility

Environmental sanitation is a public good. Improper waste disposal by one individual affects all community members, mosquitoes that breed in one place may bite people in another, contamination of foodstuffs will affect all who consume them, not just the seller. Ensuring good sanitation is therefore the responsibility of all citizens, communities, private sector enterprises, NGOs and institutions of Government”, he stated.

Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) must take action to make appropriate bye-laws to regulate environmental sanitation and prevent pollution within their areas of jurisdiction.

Mr Zanu says the situation required much commitment from the leadership of the country. He noted that provision of WASH facilities increased significantly at the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic but has since reduced drastically.

“Sanitation is a public health concern that is why in developed World most resources are geared towards WASH”, he said.

He therefore want government to invest more in WASH and place high priority on environmental sanitation, with the establishment and implementation of environmental and health standards.

“If we are bale to tackle environmental and sanitation very well, we will do away with many of the communicable diseases and we will be free”, he stated adding that diseases such as cholera, COVID-19 and even Ebola could be tackled with environmental health and proper sanitation”

Education and sensitization

Both Mr Zenu and Mr Goku stressed the need for more public education to get people to understand that poor sanitation has consequence on their overall health.

“We need to thoroughly understand that sanitation has serious impact on our health. I think more education and sensitization is needed”, Mr Zenu stated.

“We need to intensify our education and sensitisation on sanitation issues with support”, Mr Goku stressed and called on government and other stakeholders to show much commitment and support the move saying, tackling sanitation situation was a shared responsibility.

Conclusion

From the discussions, the key challenge militating against efforts to address the poor sanitation in the country is the attitude of the citizenry. It is imperative that all hands are brought on deck, Everyone has an essential role to play in maintaining a high standard of environmental sanitation.

Yes there ought to be a strong leadership commitment to drag the citizens along but a changed attitude towards sanitation is equally essential. As it has been established, achieving improved environmental sanitation is a collective responsibility. This collective efforts will mean that domestic and commercial activities have no prejudicial effect on the health or the living and working environment of others.


This article was produced as part of the People for Health (P4H) project being implemented by SEND Ghana, Penplusbytes and the GNA with the aim of reducing inequities in the delivery of health services through promotion of good governance practices of accountability, transparency equity and participation.

Join our Newsletter