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General News of Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Source: GNA

Only 0.1% of budget committed to sanitation

Accra, 29 June, GNA - The Executive Secretary of the Coalition of NGOs in water and sanitation (CONIWAS), Mr Benjamin Arthur has stated that in spite of Government's pledge to commit zero point five per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to sanitation, this year's budget made provision for only zero point one per cent.

Mr Arthur said despite government's undertaking in Washington DC in 2010 to commit 200 million dollars every year towards water and sanitation activities beginning this year, this year's budget did not reflect that commitment.

He said analysing the progress so far, there was the indication that Ghana had met only 45 per cent of the commitments, meaning the country would not be able to meet its Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target.

Mr Arthur said this at a sensitisation workshop on 93The Right to Water and Sanitation" organized for journalists in Accra.

The CONIWAS's Executive Secretary stated that the reason for the workshop was to remind each other about the issues of human rights when it came to water and sanitation.

He said though Ghana's leaders met and set targets to work towards the MDGs for the people to have access to water by 2015. "However, when we look at this target in relation to where we are in this country as at now, we have four more years to the MDG target, yet the figures that we have are nothing that we should be proud of."

According to Mr Arthur, Ghana had been able to achieve 59 per cent coverage for water, while for sanitation Ghana was last but one at the bottom in West Africa and Africa,

He said Ghana still had a national coverage of 13 per cent for sanitation and that even if the figure was put at 20 per cent, it will mean that out of a population of 24 million, only 4.8 million had access to adequate or improved sanitation.

"We have a situation where our governments have penned their signatures to international conventions and treaties committing themselves to the principle that water and sanitation are human rights issues, and therefore they will make it possible for most, if not all of us, to have access to these facilities.

"It means that whichever way possible, our government should try and make these facilities accessible, especially to the poor and the marginalized," the Executive Secretary said.

He said the lack of investment in the sector was also a major contributory factor to most people not having access to good water and adequate sanitation facilities.

"People's rights in terms of water and sanitation are being trampled upon if you look at most of the international conventions," Mr Arthur stressed.

The CONIWAS Executive Secretary said a critical look at sanitation in the country and its growth rate, indicated that it would take another 40 years for Ghana to be able to attain the MDG target of 54 per cent coverage.

He said the workshop, which was supported by WaterAid in Ghana and the Centre on Human Rights and Eviction (COHRE) was held to look at sanitation and water provision in the context of human rights and how to demand accountability from government.

"It is for other people to also follow up for duty bearers to also do their part," Mr Arthur said.

The workshop considered some of the conventions and treaties that underline human rights issues in relation to water and sanitation. The Secretary of CONIWAS and convener of the day's training, Mr. Ben Lartey, said the workshop was geared towards partnering the media to demand from government, the private sector and service providers.

Mr Patrick Apoya, Facilitator of the workshop who is also the Chief Executive of Sky Fox Limited, said the outcome of the workshop would be packaged for a National Stakeholders Workshop and also aid in the preparation of a National Action Plan.

He said although traditionally the rights to water and sanitation were accepted, they were still not imbedded in Ghana's constitution, adding that the ultimate was to have that done.

According to Mr Apoya, a former Executive Secretary of CONIWAS, many African governments were resisting putting the rights to water and sanitation in their laws and constitutions. 93Countries in Africa including Kenya, South Africa and Botswana have those rights embedded in their laws."

The facilitator said most countries had declined to enshrine the rights in their laws, because they were afraid that people would hold them accountable.