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Opinions of Sunday, 20 November 2011

Columnist: Damoah, Nana Awere

Happy World Toilet Day

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In a radio interview with Abeiku Santana in either 2005 or 2006 (I remember

listening to it online whilst studying in Nottingham) about water shortage on the

campus of University of Ghana, a female student of the Volta hall complained about

how it was frustrating it was when "one needed to go to the loo to poo!" Today as we

celebrate World's Toilet Day, I thank God for the privilege of having a place to

download such effluent. Many still don't have that access.

I grew up in Kotobabi, a suburb of Accra, where I was born and lived for close to 25

years. We grew up in a three-room rented apartment, in a compound house. Three

rooms, because there was the main bedroom, which was used by my parents and the

younger kids, who slept on mats on the floor; the second room, which was a combined

sitting room with a bed on one side (my eldest brother used this, and which served

as a bedroom during the night, when the chairs and tables were packed at one side to

make room for mats and mattresses to be put on the floor for sleeping on. The third

room was a kitchen space, but it was used to keep other stuff like water drums, and

served as the storeroom as well. And don’t have the image of a kitchen with fridge,

cabinets, electrical cooker, et cetera. Just think kitchen space! Nine other

families lived in the compound house and we all shared the same utilities –

bathhouse, toilets, water pipe.

For some years, the toilet in this compound house, the pan latrine type, was not

functional. Eish, those were the days when the latrine man was the worse person to

cross at dawn. A wrong word when you met him around 3am or 4am with the symbol of

his trade on the top of his head, and you could have a sprinkling of his load

administered by the short broom he always had in his hand, in the manner in which

holy water is sprinkled during mass. When nature called, we had to walk to either

Kotobabi down or Pig Farm to use the public places of convenience, a very

inconveniencing journey especially when the package awaiting download also had the

attribute of impatience. In such a situation, the steps one took were measured. A

false move, and catastrophe ensued. Observing a person going through such an

experience, you would always get the feeling of watching a moving car with ignition

problems: a rushing, a stop or pause, a try at igniting the vehicle and the

process repeated. A queue, usually long, at the destination doesn’t help matters.

In my article, Fearful Things in Sikaman Part 1, I wrote:

It is a fearful thing to be in thick Accra traffic and to have an urgent call from

Nature. The first confusion is how to manage the heat in the car and the heat in the

alimentary canal simultaneously. Second challenge is how to control the pedals

without disturbing the delicate equilibrium achieved as the mind goes into

analytical, scanning and zooming mode: where to go?

The options aren't a lot. According to my friend Kafui Dey, you could park the car,

leave the hazard lights on, walk quickly to a nearby hotel, smile at the

receptionist, find the nearest washroom, sweet relief. Get back to your car, pay the

towing charges and drive back. The best solution, actually; just that it is assumed

that you can reach the hotel safely, one will surely have to walk with

circumspection and calculated steps.

Ebo Beecham believes the nearest bush calleth, but bush in Vanderpuje's Accra?

Scarce and what if you are in central Accra? Another friend suggest prayer, but here

too, you can only do silent prayer. Don't start blowing away in tongues, you need

all the control to concentrate!

According to the United Nations, more than 2.6 billion people live without access to

proper sanitation facilities. , In 2001, the World Toilet Organization (WTO)

declared 19th November World Toilet Day (WTD). It is now celebrated in over 19

countries with over 51 events being hosted by various water and sanitation advocates

in 2010.

The purpose of the WTD is “to raise global awareness of the struggle 2.6 billion

face every day without access to proper, clean sanitation. WTD also brings to the

forefront the health, emotional and psychological consequences the poor endure as a

result of inadequate sanitation.”

In Ghana, statistics from the Accra Metropolitan Assembly estimate that seventy

percent of people living in Accra, the capital city of Ghana, do not have access to

a toilet facility. The situation could be worse outside the capital. Travel on any

of major highways, say from Accra to Kumasi, and you are always in hot waters if

nature calls. Where to do it is always a headache, which dilemma invariably

exacerbates the stress!

Thinking back to 20 years ago and seeing how we still struggle with the provision of

this basic amenity, one wonders, in Ghana speak, whether “we came or went”. The

situation hasn’t changed much, with public toilets even assuming the status of being

targets of forced takeover by political foot soldiers.

Again referring to Fearful Things in Sikaman:

During the Ghana @50, one of the main plans was to construct washrooms and rest

stops along the major highways. As happens many times in Sikaman, the talk is sweet

but the execution is sour at best or usually nil. We are still expecting those.

Happy Toilet Day, and as you squat for either aquatic abortion or high-speed

downloading, do say a prayer of thanks that you have the facilities to perform these

functions and spare a thought for the 2.6 billion around the world who are still

searching for that privilege.


Acheampong, Elvis Akwasi, The Import of World's Toilet Day to the Ordinary


Accessed 19.11.11>

World Toilet Organization,, Accessed 19.11.11

Damoah, Nana Awere, Fearful Things in Sikaman Part 1

Accessed 19.11.11>

Source: Nana Awere Damoah

Author, Tales from Different Tails/Through the Gates of Thought / Excursions In My


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