Access to improved Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) infrastructure in Ghana remains a big a challenge.
About 54 percent of Ghanaians continue to use shared sanitary facilities while only about 21 percent people across the country have access to improved sanitation facilities.
Even more worrying is that people resident in “Rural Growth Centres” across the country continue to be left out.
Speaking at a WASH learning event on rural sanitation at Jirapa in the Upper West Region, the Global WASH Sector Coordinator for SNV, Antoinette Kome said strategies used to improved access to WASH services in urban and rural areas are not effective in such areas because of the “dispersed and spontaneous” nature of the settlements.
Ghana is playing host to representatives of government, private sector and NGOs across 13 African and Asian countries working with SNV under its ‘Sustainable Sanitation and Hygiene for All’ (SSH4A) program.
The 4 day learning event is focused on, “The Missing Middle; Rural Growth Centres in Area-wide Sanitation”.
The Global WASH Sector Coordinator for SNV, Antoinette Kome said that SNV together with its partners having been “working on an approach to rural sanitation which has been quite effective and used by many countries but sometimes it is not effective for the rural growth areas”.
Madam Kome explained that the strategies are not “working because the areas are different from the general rural population.
They [rural growth areas] have maybe a younger population, they do not have land ownership, they may have market days in which they have a lot of visitors come: [In such cases] what do they do?”
The Global WASH Sector Coordinator for SNV said the 4 day learning event is “to share the progress in the different countries on rural sanitation but also to ask ourselves what do we do, and develop additional strategies to address the needs of those rural growth centres”.
Madam Kome explained that there is pressing need to learn workable strategies from performing areas and adapt them to least performing areas to ensure success.
The Multi-Country Program Manager for SSH4A, Anne Mutta said although access to WASH services and facilities had increased in the various countries due to strategic approaches that had been developed and adopted by SNV and partners, there were a number of people that were still being left behind because they are “communities that are not really urban and we have communities that are not really rural. They [the communities] are somewhere in between”.
She said the entire duration of the programme is to “discuss what is happening around the missing middle and these rural growth centres; these people who are not really permanent in the areas they live”. Madam Mutta said there is the need to learn from other countries in Asia particularly, the ones that have done well in such areas.
The Multi-Country Program Manager for SSH4A said impressive progress has been made in some parts of the Africa towards access to WASH facilities “especially for Ghana, looking at how much effort has been put in”.
She however, restated the need for strong political will plus the multi-sector support to ensure complete access to water and other hygiene facilities.
The new Country Director for SNV, Anjo Van Toorn explained that there is the need to ensure that districts work to maintain the ODF status. In this way, the full health benefit of good sanitary practices would be enjoyed by all residents.
A representative from the Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources, Kweku Quansah said sanitation is one of the 16 priority areas for the government.
Mr. Quansah said government is committed to ensuring that all residents have access to improved sanitation facilities thus the creation of the novel Sanitation Ministry.
He said “close to 65 percent of the reasons people go to our health facilities in Ghana is due to Water Sanitation and Hygiene related diseases”.
Mr. Quansah said unsanitary conditions also affect education, tourism and many other sectors of Ghana’s development.
The DCE for Nandom, Thaddeus Arkum Aasoglenang observed that the current dispensation supports the idea of accessible WASH services for all.
He explained that to make his area ODF, he had to employ what he termed ‘a bit of benevolent dictatorship’ while also invoking the by-laws.
“We are aware that achieving ODF [status] is not the end of the journey, sustaining the successes so that we do not relapse is the most challenging issues we are confronted with,” he added.
Mr. Aasoglenang said the Assembly has come out with a sustainability plan to continue with sensitization of residents while engaging sanitation monitoring groups that have been formed to ensure that the district remains ODF.
A Project Manager for SNV in Rwanda, Richard Nyirishema said Rwanda attained the status as one of the cleanest countries in Africa because of the strong political will “to do something about sanitation and hygiene for the cities, for the households and even the rural areas”.
Mr. Nyirishema said in Kigali for instance, there had been proper investment by government in planting trees, creating pathways and ensuring that the city was always clean.
He indicated the arrangement makes it difficult for the residents to even litter because they are aware that it is not acceptable.
Mr. Nyirishema added that communities around Rwanda have monthly cleanup exercises around their areas to ensure that they remain clean. He also said citizens themselves need to invest their time and energy to maintaining spick and span environment.
Story by Mark Smith