Sanitation is dignity indeed!

Kwaku, a 21 year old man, born and bred in Obuasi in the Ashanti region, had lived all his life in one of the luxurious mining bungalows, after obtaining a Diploma in Information Technology at the Koforidua Polytechnic, he decided he is going to stay with a relative in Accra, Ghana’s capital city to seek for a job and probably greener pastures.

Kwaku was lucky to have a cousin staying at Akweteyman, a suburb of Accra so his dream to come and stay in Accra really did materialize.

It was a one room, probably a boy’s quarters to the main building, with about 10 different families living in the house. On the compound of the house was this cemented structure with four sides used as a bathroom where all the 10 families used.

Even outsiders, those who were not tenants in the house sometimes came and took their bath there.

To his surprise, he realized that there was no toilet in the house, the reason being that the toilet which used to be in the house got full and no body was prepared to pay for it to be emptied so the landlady collapsed the place.

Very early in the morning, Kwaku would walk from Akweteyman to the main Achimota Market where a public toilet was situated, he had to be in a queue for hours to get his turn to empty his bowels, and this wasn’t free, a patron of the public toilet would have to buy toilet roll or newspaper to use to clean himself after the act.

Once you got the chance to enter the toilet, one is not done with the challenges, only half of the problem is solved then.

Kwaku says, “On some of the toilet seats, there are faeces all over it, some on the floor and one has to employ special acrobatics to have a safe and free emptying of bowels.

That aside, this is a graduate who had no clue that coming to Accra in search of a job would also mean being able to adapt to a slum life.

Kwaku’s situation makes real the celebration of World Toilet Day, a day set aside to critically consider various sanitation issues.

The celebration of World Toilet Day in Ghana had been met with mixed feelings, the first time this was announced on a local radio station in Accra, some presenters actually made fun of it.

“World Toilet Day hahahaaaa’” as for this country we celebrate everything; this was one of the radio presenter’s comment. It really sounded funny. The media could probably not link the celebration of World Toilet Day with anything development.

World Toilet Day is set aside to demand proper sanitation for people all over the world, a cause championed by the World Toilet Organization.

This year’s celebration is on the theme: “Sanitation is dignity, hygiene is heath.”

To some people it was just an unnecessary day to celebrate, however, after hearing Kwaku’s story, the realization that a country should pay attention to toilet issues really becomes real.

It is estimated worldwide that about 2.5 billion people do not have access to toilet and proper sanitation and in Ghana almost about half of the population are estimated to be using shared toilets or do not have toilets in their homes.

Shared toilets in a sense that there may be a house with about 10 different families as in Kwaku’s case who all share the same toilets.

There are still some households in Accra, who use the pan latrine and better still there are households who do not have water and therefore are not able to flash their toilets.

World Toilet Day was declared in 2001 by the World Toilet Organization of the United Nations to highlight the need for all households in the world to have access to hygienic toilets.

Some people have raised legitimate concerns like, what are the processes involved in getting a good toilet in one’s home, some have said it is very expensive to get a good or proper toilet in one’s home, is it right, for instance to call on government to help or subsidize the processes involved in owning a toilet?

Many questions are raised when it comes to the issues of sanitation; going to the toilet is a very important act in the lives of every individual, however, when about half of a country’s population have to go through what can be best described as inhuman to empty their bowels, it is nothing compared to development.

Major Awuah, Director of Metro Sewage Services, said the Accra Metropolitan Assembly have given a one-year ultimatum to businesses and households in the Metropolis who do not have toilets to put in place toilet facilities at the premises or be prosecuted.

“Therefore household and businesses that do not have toilet facilities come October, 2011 will be prosecuted,” meanwhile the Assembly has banned the use of pan latrines and those found to be using the banned facility would be arrested effective January 2011.

Major Awuah said the Metropolis also had its own challenges one of which is the urgent need to find an alternative arrangement to dump the city’s liquid waste.

“The Mayor has given instructions that dumping liquid waste at “Lavender Hill” a suburb of Accra where the liquid waste is dumped into the sea must stop,” he added we are seriously working to end that by the end of the year.

However, he said all is not lost, since the African Development Bank under the Accra Sewage Improvement Project (ASIP) is targeting 4200 household to support them with toilet facilities.

Under the ASIP households would be made to apply for a financial facility to enable them own a toilet in their homes and would be made to pay in monthly instalments so that other people would also benefit from the fund which is suppose to be a revolving fund.

As Ghana pursues the better Ghana agenda, let us all remember that having access to good sanitation is also development.

Mr Elvis Afriyie Ankrah, Deputy Minister of Local Government and Rural Development last year joined resident of Nima, a suburb of Accra in the early hours of the morning as they queued for their morning toilet and described the act as unacceptable.

In the Deputy Minister’s own word’s he said, “It is unacceptable to live such lives, as Ghana joins the rest of the world to mark World Toilet Day on November 19, let is remember that sanitation is indeed dignity.

by Hannah Asomaning

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