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Opinions of Monday, 19 April 2021

Columnist: Emmanuel Acheampong

The underrated 'Borlavirus', deadly than coronavirus in Ghana

My heart trembles with fear and panic each time I think about the chronic and eminent filth that engulf our communities and the detrimental consequences they pose to our environment and the people of Ghana.

Many individuals and groups including, NGO’s and governmental institutions have tried one way or the other in grappling the menace but all have proved futile.

It looks as if there is a particular gravitational force retarding each effort made in the fight against indiscriminate disposal and management of filth that decorates many parts of our country. I can confidently say that, almost 80% of all opened gutters across the nation are choked (you may check your area's gutters to confirm) causing annual floods, ill-health, and displacing many lives. Many market places stink profusely due to odours emanating from heaped garbage and choked gutters. Even in higher educational institutions where one may think such occurrences may be scarce are currently on the list of dirty communities in the country.

The most alarming and bewildering conundrum that warranted the writing of this piece is the deliberate dumping of refuse in between dual carriageways especially in the Greater Accra region. This development is quite appalling and totally unacceptable and hence must be exterminated briskly.

Areas like Madina, Odorkor, Kaneshie, Tema, and the famous Circle Dubai, just to mention a few have all been turned into refuse dump sites. It looks as if there are no principals of such places to put things in order and to prosecute such habits of national destruction. When you get to the Madina Zongo Junction (a suburb in Accra) for instance, just under the traffic light, there is a sign post with an inscription “Dumping of refuse here is prohibited”, but you find heaps of garbage around this same post. What at all is wrong with some of us?

It looks as if Ghana has been cursed with some lackadaisical and unpatriotic citizens who are insensitive to matters of national interest and development. Too much indiscipline coupled with decadent lawlessness has brought us this far.

Sanitation related diseases which together I call the “Borlavirus”, is killing more people than any other disease one can think of in this country. Not even the infamous Coronavirus is comparable to the “Borlavirus” in terms of mortality and destructive effects it has on the nation. However, less sobriety, and resources are dedicated to fighting this canker. We must sit up as a nation; as responsible and patriotic citizens and put things in perspective; contrary to this will be a huge catastrophe that will catch us unawares and plonk posterity in much danger.

The development of Ghana and as such sanitation issues must always be seen us a collective responsibility of all and sundry.
Since coronavirus found its way to Ghana; everyone has been conscious of the protocols to preventing the spread of the virus to some extent. The president, the Ministry of Health, governmental institutions, religious organizations, schools, companies, NGO’s, etc. have all committed their resources in full to fighting against the coronavirus pandemic.

Ghana Health Service’s recorded as at 14th April, 2021 denote 91,663 coronavirus cases with 89,530 recovering and 771 death cases. The government has spent huge sums of money in procuring vehicles, PPE’s, vaccines, and etc. all in the name of fighting against Coronavirus.

A private fund has also been set up to attract donors from institutions and people to fight coronavirus. This is something commendable since it has achieved a high level of success in dealing with the menace of the coronavirus spread. When the problem emerged, concrete, succinct, cogent and timely interventions were put in place to curb it.

If we have been able to deal with coronavirus efficiently, why can’t we as a nation deposit similar or much effort in fighting against the filth that engulf our communities? The resulting damage of this menace are the numerous sanitation related diseases such as cholera, typhoid, polio, diarrhea, dysentery, and hepatitis A for which I have neologized as “Borlavirus” claiming many lives every year far beyond the lives coronavirus may claim. A study by the Water and Sanitation Program of the World Bank has said that, Ghana spends GHC 1.4 Billion annually to combat the effects of poor sanitation and open defecation.

In addition to these, they reported 19,000 Ghanaians die prematurely each year from diarrhea including 5,100 children under age 5. Comparing the statistics of the duo gives a clearer indication as to the one that needs a distinguished attentiveness. It is evident that the latter needs much swifter and immediate solutions before things fall apart.

We must collectively find practical solutions to the endemic “Borlavirus” that costs the nation many lives and huge sums of money. It should not be a lip talk but rather walking the talk to realize a clean and healthy nation. Even though there are many barriers that limit the propensity to solving this problem, the primus inter pares(first among equals) and the gravest are the lackadaisical attitudes towards refuse disposal and management.

People indiscriminately dispose of refuse everywhere without shame. It is shocking to note that when such people are even approached about their inactions, they result in casting viscous insinuations without showing remorse to having done the wrong thing. Some people wait for the rains to start and quickly deposit their excreta and waste into open gutters knowing the detrimental effects of such despicable acts. Such characterization is a recipe for mass destruction and must not be tolerated any further in this country.

Ghana must be recognized as a clean nation and as such a collective effort is the only way in realizing such feet. People who are fond of acts leading to the infamous “Borlavirus” must be dealt with.

I therefore propose these solutions to stakeholders and the government in order to put a stop to indiscriminate littering, open defecation and activities that result in filthy environment. Consistent media advocacy, education and sensitization on sanitation; enforcing sanitation laws and dispassionately disciplining individuals and institutions that practice indiscriminate refuse disposal; setting up a sanitation fund, are some of the practical ways of addressing the infamous “Borlavirus” causing loss of many lives and destroying our environment.

The recent occurrences of heaped garbage in between dual carriageways cannot be overlooked in becoming a normal in Ghana and must be grappled with all our might. The President, the Minister of Sanitation and Water Resources, the Minister for Environment, Municipal and District Assemblies, waste management organizations and Ghanaians must all unite to fight against this menace that put many lives in jeopardy. We can no longer underestimate “Borlavirus”; it kills more than the overhyped Coronavirus. A clean Ghana is a must which requires a collective effort.

May God bless our homeland Ghana and make our nation clean and healthy.

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