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Opinions of Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Columnist: Amoah, Anthony Kwaku

Blame Accra Cholera Outbreaks On Poor Sanitation

By Anthony Kwaku Amoah

“A total of 68 persons died of cholera within the Accra Metropolis between 2006 and 2011. While 40 people died from the disease last year, 17 people have so far died this year”-reports The Finder (Tuesday, April 17, 2012, pg 3).
Elaborating the dreadful report, Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) boss Alfred Okoe Vanderpuije says: “So far, 826 cases have been reported from 12 public health facilities with 17 deaths as at April 13, 2012 and the cases continue to rise every week.”
According to Accra Metropolitan Health Director Dr John B.K. Yabani, the situation is really alarming, and therefore, calls for the concerted effort of all to tackle.
The query now is, why is this disease so widespread in Accra than any other area? The city is too congested and dirty. Surprisingly, rural areas appear rather neater and disease-free than our cities are.
Anytime I visit the village, I feel better compared to Accra. I enjoy every bit of life there. I eat fresh fruits and vegetables, move about freely without any traffic jams, and sleep well. The only thing which may incite the rural folk to give city life a try is education and employment.
Aside the dangers with consuming foods on sale near choked gutters and garbage, the stench from these dirty places is even more than enough to expose an individual to diseases. Heaps of human excreta and other debris continue to engulf the city and serve as havens for germs.
It was therefore no news to most of us when the Accra Mayor recently mentioned Maamobi, Nima, Kotobabi, Pig Farm, Accra New Town, Kanda, Chorkor, Korle-Gonno, Sukura, Sabon Zongo, Darkuma, Mataheko and Laterbiokorshie as cholera epidemic areas in the city. These are areas well-known to have feebly managed their wastes. There are bad or no drains, toilet facilities and refuse dumps hence forcing people to defecate and throw away refuse anywhere at all.
Though Mr. Vanderpuije has informed that: “The assembly (AMA) has been able to desilt 600 cubic meters of silt and garbage from the Odaw River to the Onyesi drain,” I still see them as major threats to public health in the city. In fact, they are an eyesore to the integrity of Accra.
This cholera epidemic may get worsened should individuals continue to treat the environment with impunity. Proper education and sanctions are necessary for any meaningful attitudinal change of people.
Government must also ensure that facilities like markets, public toilets, drains and incinerators are provided for use. Homes must be encouraged to have their own toilets. Food vendors in schools, markets and other institutions must be regularly inspected to keep to standards. To this end, institutions like the Environmental Health and Sanitation Department, ZoomLion Ghana Limited, the Ghana Standards Board and the Food and Drugs Board must be well resourced and motivated to effectively deliver on their mandates. They must be legally empowered to prosecute notorious offenders.
Schools should continue to imbibe in pupils the importance of good hygiene. The hand-washing-with-soap campaign should be intensified. Pupils should be made to extend whatever knowledge they acquire in school to parents, guardians and others who are ignorant. Let me use this medium to commend the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) for using cholera as the comprehension passage for this year’s English Language paper of the Basic Education Certificate Examination. It has demonstrated the system’s determination to battle cholera through education.
In some rural settings, due to lack of public toilet facilities, many folks are compelled to share these facilities with community schools which have them. Usually, these amenities are collectively used but badly maintained. Some resort to the use of unapproved areas in communities as their places of convenience.
There is the need for the various district, municipal and metropolitan assemblies to construct more toilet facilities in communities. Meanwhile, communities themselves can also mobilize funds and resources to build their own facilities. For any community to continue to exist, members are supposed to place premium on good health and sanitation by ensuring that useful amenities like toilet facilities are made available and accessible to all for use.
To stay away from cholera, good personal and environmental hygiene is necessary. One must avoid buying and eating food anywhere, any how. Hands must be washed very well with soap before eating. Whatever food one wants to consume must be clean, hot, and balanced.

My advice is for us to avoid the tendency to resort to self medication whenever an ill-health is felt. Effective contact with a personal doctor is always important. Let’s not forget that a nation can only develop if its citizens are healthy and strong. Ghana is on a serious path of development. It, therefore, cannot afford to continue to lose its cherished, dynamic citizens through avoidable ailments, like cholera.

The time to rise and fight this life enemy called cholera is, therefore, NOW!