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Water Day – An opportunity for a rallying call

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The Acting Country Director of WaterAid Ghana, Mrs. Angela Peasah, has stated that she views the commemoration of World Water Day (WWD) as an opportunity for a rallying call for people to lift the profile on sanitation and water issues and focus more attention on them.

She said that this year’s celebration is very significant because it precedes the first ever High Level Meeting of ministers in Washington next month to present a plan on how to meet the MDG target 7 which touches on water and sanitation.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with this reporter at the commemoration of the day with over 2000 school children in Ashaiman near Tema on Monday, Mrs. Peasah said “It is more of a public awareness raising and to put pressure on Government to make sure that they look at issues around the sector holistically.”

Commenting on how well Ghana is doing in the water and sanitation sector, she said unfortunately, most of the funding for the sector currently comes from development partners.

The Acting Country Director of the international non-governmental organisation, bemoaned that “Right now the percentage of our GDP to expenditure or expenditure in the sector is about 0.2%” and according to a research conducted for countries in sub Saharan Africa, Ghana is the last but one on the table of countries coming just before Niger, which is the last “in terms of the ratio of our GDP that we are spending on the sector.”

She decried the outcome of the research, saying it does not paint a very good picture, hence Government must be encouraged to put in a bit more effort in the sector, since it is a sector that is very central to development and has implications for education, health and others.

“I am sure if we do a little more in the sector it will impact more on the other sectors,” Mrs. Angela Peasah submitted.

Explaining why organisers of the World Water Day commemoration in Ashaiman chose to do so with school children, she said they targeted them because they are easy to mobilise, but also to draw attention to their plight as school children who do not have good sanitation facilities and water.

“In as much as we are calling for attention on the sector we are also calling attention to the plight of the school children,” she stressed.

She was of the opinion that with such policies as indicated by the Schools Health Education Programme (SHEP) that it is mandatory for anyone who wishes to put up a school to include sanitation facilities, the country can only move forward in its focus on water and sanitation issues, while old schools that do not have them are made to provide such.

Earlier in a speech Mrs. Peasah stated that the campaign for basic sanitation facilities and clean water was very essential because there are many communities where there are no toilets available for people. “They defecate in the open, which increases the risk of health problems,” she said.

For his part, the Minister for Water Resources, Works and Housing, Hon. Alban Sumana Kingsford  Bagbin, who was guest of honour, said the theme for this year’s World Water Day, “Clean Water for a Healthy World,” was not only appropriate but also timely because it places emphasis both on the quality and the quantity of water resources.

“It should however, be noted that clean water for a healthy world is intrinsically linked to basic sanitation. It is therefore gratifying to note that you have chosen as a sub theme, ‘Basisc Sanitation and Clean Water Now’,” he said.

In a speech read for him by the Deputy Director of the Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing, Stephen Yaw Osei, Hon. Bagbin assured that his Ministry will support every effort by all in addressing the situation within the water sector.

A call message was also read by Deborah Acquah of Church of Christ School which stated, “ Our call to Government and other stakeholders gathered here is but a simple request ‘Please give us basic sanitation and clean water now!’”

She urged Government to also recognise that access to sanitation and water is a fundamental human right and should be prioritised as essential services alongside health and education, so that they can study well.

“The Government must also tackle sanitation and water as the driving force towards progress across the development sectors aimed at improving child survival, increasing girls’ education, strengthening economic growth and reducing poverty,” Deborah Acquah added.

By Edmund Smith-Asante

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