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Health News of Thursday, 27 June 2019


Ghana must double up to enhance access to water, sanitation and hygiene

Latest data from UNICEF and WHO indicate that Ghana has made some slight improvement to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) access between 2000 and 2017 with the percentage of people with clean water up by 17 per cent.

It showed those with a decent toilet had grown by nine per cent.

Despite this level of improvement, Ghana still had more work to do to ensure a basic level of WASH access for all.

More than 5.47 million being 19 per cent of Ghanaians still did not have clean water and over 23.64 million did not have a decent toilet.

The current rate of progress was too slow to meet the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) six, which required that every Ghanaian had adequate access to WASH by 2030.

The 17 per cent increment in water access fell below the ambition of SDG six of everyone having access to a safely managed water supply, which demanded that everyone had a household service that was reliable and tested to be safe.

Over five million Ghanaians did not have access to a safely managed supply. About 24 per cent of them spent over 30 minutes to access water from an improved source and the rest use water from unsafe sources putting them at risk of water-borne diseases such as diarrhoea and cholera.

Per SDG six, every Ghanaian must have access to “safely managed sanitation” by 2030. This meant providing everyone with a toilet that was linked to a system of safe waste disposal.

Statistics from the current study showed that only 18 per cent of Ghanaians enjoy the basic service. The rest, 50 per cent had limited access (use shared toilets), 13 per cent use unimproved toilets (unsafe and uncovered dug outs that allow flies access to excreta) and 11 per cent (over 3 million Ghanaians) defecate in the open (along beaches, in gutters, alley ways etc).

With just a little over a decade to go and without a dramatic progress shift, universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) will not be achieved for decades and will undermine the progress of virtually every other SDG.

This meant the health and prospects of the affected people were being held back because they did not have the basic human rights of clean water and decent sanitation.

Commenting on the development, the Country Director of WaterAid Ghana, Abdul-Nashiru Mohammed, said there was the need to close the huge gap between the poor and the rich.

“We must turn our attention to closing the huge gaps that exist between the experiences of the poorest and richest people. It is the poorest and most marginalised people who have the most to gain from accessing good water, sanitation and hygiene services and breaking free of poverty.

“We need an urgent step change in how we all work towards the goal of universal access. Clean water, decent sanitation and good hygiene together is the foundation that underpins almost all the SDGs, from health to education, to nutrition and the environment. There can be no end to poverty without universal access, but we are still failing to make this a reality.”

As Ghana prepares to attend this year’s high-level political forum on the sustainable development goals, WaterAid reminds duty bearers about the positive impact of improved water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) access on the achievement of all the UN development targets.

Improved WASH access freed women to engage in income generating ventures to support their families. Adequate WASH access in schools created a congenial learning environment for school children and reduced absenteeism especially among girls.

Access to WASH in communities enhances the practices of good hygiene, eliminated open defecation and prevented the spread of WASH related diseases and needless deaths especially among children under five.

Access to adequate WASH in Health Care Facilities, especially centres that provided maternity services, protected the lives of newly born babies and their mothers. It also facilitated good hygiene practice among health care givers and thus saved them from infections.

WaterAid called on government to increase investment to improve WASH access in Health Care Facilities, schools and communities.

There must be a WASH component in every sector budget, timely releases, and proper utilisation to propel Ghana towards achieving universal access by 2030.

The government must not leave the work on development partners alone because Ghana cannot achieve agenda 2030 with only donor funds. Government must lead the process.

Commitments made at international development fora must be met with the right investments. The Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources and the District Assemblies must be given enough resources to work and fulfil their mandate.

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