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Opinions of Friday, 5 September 2014

Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame

Is NDC the Dirtiest Government in Ghana?

By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Garden City, New York
August 31, 2014
E-mail: okoampaahoofe@optimum.net

According to a Starrfmonline.com news report, it well appears that a phenomenal increase in the spate of the cholera epidemic in Ghana coincided with the return to power of the National Democratic Congress some six years ago (See "Cholera: Mahama Orders 'Free' Public Toilet Use for Kids" Ghanaweb.com 8/30/14).

Since 2008, the starting cutoff year, the incidence of cholera in the country has steadily been on the rise, with the official registering of 823 cases and the current year, 2014, recording over 7,000 cases and still counting. What makes this situation even more disturbing, is the fact that cholera is an infectious disease that directly correlates with extremely poor environmental sanitation, such as the lack of toilet facilities and filthy drainage systems.

It is also rather ironic to observe that one of the major objectives of the Rawlings revolution, so-called, had to do with the high level of filth in Ghanaian cities and its attendant spread of readily avoidable diseases like cholera and malaria, at the time, that caused both juntas of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) and the Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC), both led by then-Flt.-Lt. Jerry John Rawlings, to initiate its so-called House-Cleaning exercises.

We highlight the foregoing historical fact, because Rawlings is also the founding father of the National Democratic Congress (NDC). Equally disturbing is the fact that President John Dramani Mahama waited until the cholera epidemic had become a pandemic before leading a communal street-and-drainage cleaning exercise. That such exercise is bound to be a publicity stunt cannot be gainsaid, because the Mahama-led National Democratic Congress government clearly lacks a comprehensive and well-articulated environmental health program.

Besides, merely exhorting all district, municipal and metropolitan assemblies to organize "monthly clean-up exercises," in a bid to warding off the cholera epidemic, is unarguably a no-brainer. Rather, the government needs to hire a sizeable staff of well-paid sanitation workers to work hand-in-hand with community residents on daily environmental cleaning exercises. The time-tested regime of the Town-Council Health Inspectors (or Tankase), of the 1950s, 60s and 70s, ought to be promptly revived, expanded and remarkably improved by ensuring that only college-educated and board certified health workers get hired for the job. This is the twenty-first century, and cholera ought to become a disease of the culturally dim past.

President Mahama may also want to embark on a more effective sanitation campaign, by ensuring that most urban homes lacking indoor toilet facilities are equipped with the same. His government could ensure this by collaborating with banking and loan-granting institutions to facilitate the process. The number of public-toilet facilities also needs to be significantly increased to synch with demand, and also made freely accessible to adults residents of homes lacking such facilities, with the gainfully employed among the latter being made to pay periodic fees to help run these facilities.

Merely ordering operators of public toilets to allow children free access to the same is a no-brainer solution to the problem. What is more, President Mahama's edict does not specify exactly who qualifies to be considered a child, which could very well pose a problem for both prospective youthful users of these public toilet facilities and the operators. We need to also promptly point out the fact that it is not only minors, or children, who have fast formed the unhealthy, and unsavory, habit of defecating in open and unauthorized public spaces, including gutters and beaches.

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