Regional News of Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Source: GNA

Government must keep promise of improving the water, Sanitation and hygiene sector

The Ghana WATSAN Journalists Network (GWJN) on Tuesday asked government to keep to its promise of providing US$400 million annually in the budget to fund activities in the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene sector.

GWJN is a grouping of environmental journalists interested in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene issues.

At a press conference in Accra, Mr Edmund Smith-Asante, Deputy Coordinator of GWJN, said Government made the commitment in April 2012 at the Second High Level Meeting on Sanitation and Water for All (SWA/HLM) in Washington DC.

He said although current statistics showed that Ghana was on her way to surpass its MDG target for water, there were still millions without access to potable water, while national sanitation coverage was woefully inadequate.

Only 14 out of 100 Ghanaians currently have access to improved sanitation, while 19 out of every 100 Ghanaians (4.8 million) daily practice open defecation in bushes, storm drains, black polythene bags and other open spaces they can find, since they do not have access to toilets.

“A key goal is to accelerate progress towards meeting the MDG targets on Sanitation, as well as consolidating gains made on water. But while these promises are good, their value comes from their fulfillment.

“So we are watching and waiting to see the funds released,” the GWJN statement said.

With the annual growth of one percentage point (1per cent), it will take 40 years to enable Ghana to reach the MDG target of 54 per cent, while the economic and health impact of this situation cannot be underestimated.

It said while governments were quick to make various promises to the WASH sector in international fora, implementation of these commitments had been lacking, especially in the area of funding and commitment to international agreements.

The GWJN called for much greater political commitment by government to WASH by increasing allocations to the Ministries of Water, Works and Housing and Local Government and Rural Development.

There must be better WASH Sector financing and a specific timeline when the funds would be released, as well as more efforts to deepen citizen consciousness about the significance of the WASH sector.