About 36 percent of public basic schools in Ghana lack toilet facilities, thus encouraging open defecation, according to Prof. Gabriel Ayum Teye, Pro-vice Chancellor of University for Development Studies (UDS).
This, he said, affects the health status of future leaders in Ghana – thereby compelling government and donor agencies to channel funds for different developmental projects into addressing sanitation issues.
“It goes a long way to even affect the way they grow up; because if at that age they are only exposed to free-range, they will grow up with the attitude that – as for sanitation and hygiene – you can just anything the way you want,” he added.
According to him, the country’s level of development can largely be measured by the proportion of its population that has access to quality water and sanitation.
The Pro-Vice Chancellor said this at the two-day UDS international seminar on ‘Water, Sanitation and Hygiene’ (WASH) held in Tamale.
The event was held in collaboration with the Centre for International Water and Sustainability of the Desert Research Institute based in Nevada, USA, and the Institute of Interdisciplinary Research and Consultancy Service(IIRaCS) of UDS, on the theme ‘Sustainability WASH and Water security: success, lessons learned and the way forward’, and aimed at developing strategies for WASH and improving water security across Ghana and the broader West Africa region.
The partnership seeks to help build the capacity of WASH sector stakeholders to effectively design and manage WASH systems and increase resilience to climate change, as well improve water security.
The event also brought together local and international WASH stakeholders to discuss emerging research and best practices related to WASH sustainability.
He noted that improved access to water and sanitation can reduce hunger, poverty, and child mortality as well as improve primary education.
“As a university for Development studies, all issues of development are dear to our hearts – especially those that affect the marginalised in our society,” he stated.
“We have tried in our own way to find practical solutions that address the perennial issues affecting lives and the country’s economy,” he added.
In the year 2016, the WASH centre organised a symposium to provide capacity-training for stakeholders involved in awareness-creation of WASH programmes.
The Minister for Water Resources and Sanitation, Mr. Joseph Kofi Adda, in a speech read on his behalf commended UDS and DRI for developing research and training programmes to build local capacity for more effective WASH programmes’ design and management of water resources.
He said sustainable access to WASH is the requisite foundation for improved health, education, and socio-economic needs of Ghana.
According to him, lack of drinking water and proper sanitation can lead to debilitating diseases which often cause death among children especially – adding that the loss of 20 percent of body water causes death.
“Ghana is naturally endowed with rich environmental resources, but infective management of these resources along with pressure from population growth and climate change impacts – leading to increasing water insecurity,” he stated.
The Deputy Northern Regional Minister, Mr. Solomon Boar, noted that the region has the highest percentage at 91% of the population without toilet facilities in their homes – which is way above the national average of 64 percent.
“The statistics on availability of water indicates only 20 percent of Ghanaians within the rural areas are without potable water” he stated.
The Chief Executive Officer of Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA), Mr. Worlanyo Kwadjo Siabi, said the unwillingness of house owners to provide toilet facilities is a major cause of open defecation – affecting the health status of those around.
He noted that community-led total sanitation, which is the main policy, appears not to be working effectively due to lack of a technology drive.
He stressed that unrestricted land access in low population density regions accounts for some of the inhibitors which continue to frustrate any strategy designed to increase household latrine construction.
He therefore called for the enforcement of sanitation laws to ensure all adhere to them in order to prevent any future havoc.
The Director DRI, Prof. Braimah Ayambire, said the conference was to provide a forum for better collaboration between academics and WASH practitioners, to support the delivery of sustainable WASH as well as provide opportunity for stakeholders to explore and identify gaps in sustainable WASH areas for future address.