Chronic under funding blamed for Ghana’s sanitation woes

The Coalition of NGOs in Water and Sanitation (CONIWAS), has blamed Ghana’s poor performance in sanitation especially, but also hygiene and water coverage, on the inadequacy of funding to the sector over the years.

Stressing that the availability of timely and adequate financial resources provides a lifeblood for the success and survival of not only businesses, but many other life endeavours, the coalition said “The Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Sector in Ghana suffers from chronic under funding, resulting in the poor sanitation situation in the country.”

According to CONIWAS, it is this state of affairs in the country that informed the choice of the theme: “Financing The Wash Sector:  Past, Current Trends And Vision For The Future” for this year’s national WASH forum (Mole XXIII), set to take off at Ghana’s Northern Regional capital, Tamale Wednesday, August 22, 2012.

Further underscoring the crucial need for adequate financing to the WASH sector, and the relevance of this year’s Mole Conference theme, the coalition in its background paper for the conference quoted a statement made by Ghana’s former President and chair for the 2nd High Level Meeting (HLM) held in Washington DC, John Agyekum Kufuor, on April 21, 2012, that “the dream of universal access to sanitation and water is within our reach, but a tremendous  increase in political will, adequate resources and coordinated efforts is required  to get us there”.

But CONIWAS says, “Ironically, government allocations to the WASH sector since 2006 have consistently fallen below 2% of annual gross domestic product (GDP),” adding, “the sector performance report (GOG/MWRWH, 2010) has shown a downward trend, having dropped from 1.52% in 2006 to 0.52% in 2010.”

The coalition further disclosed that an assessment made of the post 2010 annual budget, showed that Ghana met this commitment by 46% and 72% in 2011 and 2012 respectively.

“However, while, CSOs and CONIWAS membership acknowledge progress made in the water sub-sector, it is difficult to accept that actual release of funds was done to support sanitation delivery in particular, given the abysmal sanitation situation in the country, with just 14% coverage of improved sanitation (JMP Report 2012 Update),” they said.

Increasing its call for more funding for Ghana’s WASH sector, the coalition cited the eThekwini Declaration in which Ghana is a signatory – the Declaration obliges the country’s government to invest up to 0.5% of GDP in sanitation and decried the country’s current commitment which hovers around 0.1%.

According to CONIWAS, another critical consideration for the decision to focus Mole XXIII on sector financing, is the economic gains and multiplier effects that come with investment in WASH.

“For instance, the Rural Sanitation Model and Strategy (R-SMS) of our country documents extensively what could be returns on investment in sanitation. Among others, it posits that poor sanitation costs Ghana a whooping $290 million per year. This is about 1.6% of our GDP, far in excess of what we are currently spending on the sub-sector,” the coalition stated.

The R-SMS further estimates that open defecation alone costs Ghana $79 million annually, and that $215 million is lost each year to premature deaths emanating from diarrheal diseases, a direct consequence of poor the WASH situation, CONIWAS laments.

Poor WASH, according to the R-SMS, costs the country $1.5 million through productivity losses as employees fall sick or are accessing healthcare and $54 million is spent each year on healthcare.

To bridge this gap, CONIWAS says it is dedicating the Mole XXIII conference solely to the subject of sector financing, and its impact on the WASH sector and the conference is expected to provide in-depth information on the subject and make the necessary linkages with drinking water (urban and rural), sanitation and hygiene.

The conference will also share practical lessons on the ground regarding how this impact is reflected at the community level, while it is envisaged that policy discussions during the conference will go a long way towards the creation of the enabling framework to guide and support efficient and effective resource mobilisation and distribution within the WASH Sector and elucidate on possible interventions for effective utilisation of funds.

CONIWAS is of the view that adequate funding (with some measure of efficiency and effectiveness) will largely guarantee universal access to sanitation and water, and translate into opportunities for increasing the productivity of Ghana’s people, enhance enrolment and retention of children (especially girls) in school, enhance women’s dignity and ability to participate fully in development processes, reduce morbidity and mortality, and prevent water and sanitation related diseases.

Although historically, the Mole conference has often focused on issues relating to access to drinking water, sanitation and hygiene, it will for the first time put greater emphasis on government financing options, and then build linkages with the other services as well.

To this end, the Ministry of Finance and Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA) will play major roles. The Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) and the Environmental Health and Sanitation Directorate (EHSD) of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development will all provide different perspectives to the subject, say the organisers.

Key questions expected to be addressed by the conference include; How poor financing affects sustainable service delivery targets; What international good practices exist for WASH sector financing; What roles end-users and community members can play in WASH financing; What role the private sector can play in promoting sustainable financing; What the priority options and actions for stakeholders to consider are and Whether local government authorities and community members hold the key to ensuring sustainable WASH sector financing.

By Edmund Smith-Asante, in Tamale

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