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Opinions of Thursday, 11 October 2018

Columnist: Mayfair Asantewaa Anim

Sanitation: Our attitude and mindset

I was in a vehicle peeking outside through the window, observing what was happening on the streets. Something I saw caught my immediate attention- a young man whom I believe was in his late thirty’s diligently collecting rubbish that he swept off his shop’s veranda unto another person’s shop space. And I found it difficult to understand the act, in fact no matter how I interpreted it and the angle I picked from, my answers come back to a similar point and I still cannot recover from the shock.

The country has been preaching hygiene for a long time now and to the ‘gentleman,’ cleanliness is next to Godliness meant what he did, and not placing much attention to his action. Now, I visualized how this act was going to continue if the next person was just like him and maybe if it was a usual mundane of the people who occupied that vicinity, then the country will never be cured of its poor sanitation problems, and the repercussions we will not as a country be able to handle.

There are always talks about proper sanitation management of which the media is the leading advocate of waste management, with NGOs, several organizations and government officials taking up sanitation crusades day in and day out.

I remember nine years ago in secondary school, essay write ups were all carved around sanitation issues. Several features and articles on the internet concerning Ghana are mostly based on sanitation issues. There are always uproars when some parts of the country suffer flooding which is mostly the result of poor sanitation since water passages are all choked with debris.

There have been a number of waste management companies that have acted to intervene in this issue and have helped in one way or the other to curb sanitation issues in the country. Talk of the popular Zoomlion Limited, Zoompak Ghana Limited, and the rise of plastic waste management companies that recycle waste products in the country, just to prevent the unfortunate situation of the country from being swallowed by waste- a happenstance that could be engineered by our own handiwork.

We might think that every citizen in the country should by now be well informed on sanitation: proper management of waste disposal, the ecological consequences and health problems that it poses, such as malaria, cholera, typhoid, respiratory diseases to mention but a few. However, this seemed a distant change in attitude, looking at behaviors that Ghanaians exhibit toward sanitation and hygiene in the country. If proper care and management is not taken the commitment that the President of the Republic, Nana Akufo-Addo has, to make Accra the cleanness city in the country and beyond, would not yield any results. Dust bins and dumpsters can be placed at every given vantage points, but if the minds of the people are not sensitized or cured from the malady of creating refuse in the surroundings, the country will still be wallowing in filth.

Traders, hawkers, people on the streets do not give a hoot about waste disposal. They don’t even mind if they sell or buy in filth. What must we do then as a country? You might think that, it is always the uneducated that are concomitant with waste but it will amaze you that a well-educated fully groomed person will indiscriminately litter: all because nobody cares about the environment anymore.

My major concern about sanitation is the public behavior. I think sanitation issues can be curbed when there are good attitudes from us the public towards the environment in which we live. There should be an extensive public sensitization, where the minds of the public would be renewed and transformed. This can be done through public education.

The Accra Metropolitan Assembly and the numerous waste management companies should engage in a door- to-door campaign across the metropolis to educate people on sanitation and what they should do to contribute to this positive development to help make the country a better place.

You and I, who are the supposed right thinking members of the society, can also engage peers, family and even acquaintances we meet day in day out on sanitation and what each of us can do to help rid our environments of refuse. All there is to do now is to focus mainly on individual behavior and stereotypical mindsets.

Madame Elizabeth Ohene, a former minister of state, quoted in one of her write ups in the Daily Graphic that “everything has something to do with the government,” and I believe it also includes how to keep our environment safer to live in, and mind you, the government is you and I. Our contributions, our actions, how and what we think about, all comes back to affect each and every one, in a way or the other. We should all make a conscious effort to contribute to sanitation in the country in remembrance that everybody is responsible for the rise and fall of the country.

Mayfair Asantewaa Anim

Writer’s email- animmayfair@gmail.com