The first ever three-day community led total sanitation (CLTS) stocktaking forum has been held in the Northern regional capital, Tamale, against the backdrop of Ghana’s deplorably low national sanitation coverage, which currently stands at 14%.
Theme for the forum held from November 20 to 22, 2012, just a day after the commemoration of World Toilet Day on November 19, 2012, for which a national durbar was incidentally held at the Jubilee Park in Tamale, was, “Achieving Open Defecation Free Ghana Through Effective Learning and Sharing”.
One of the very revealing statements made at the forum by operators in the CLTS programme, was that their efforts at ensuring Ghana becomes an open defecation free country are being hampered by the lack of logistics, especially means of transport.
On their part, regional, metropolitan, municipal and district environmental health officers, as well as CLTS focal persons, said they could not achieve the operation 1,500 Dodowa declaration targets, due to the late release of funds, lack of motor bikes for monitoring and the fact that it coincided with the farming season.
Although the government of Ghana has adopted the CLTS strategy as the approach to sanitation delivery, uptake has, at best been erratic, with 20 per cent of Ghanaians (almost 5 million) still practising open defecation on a daily basis; a practice CLTS is expected to bring to a halt.
The use of improved toilets has not fared any better, with more than half the country’s population (16 million Ghanaians) still depending on unsanitary or shared latrines to perform the basic natural function of emptying their bowels daily.
This, in many circles, has been considered a national shame on a country that prides itself as a middle income country and a leader on the African continent.
In Ghana, CLTS is currently being implemented in five regions – the Volta, Central, Northern, Upper East and Upper West regions, with the last three presently experiencing an average open defecation rate of more than 70 per cent.
On the national open defecation chart, according to a 2008 assessment by the Water and Sanitation Monitoring Platform (WSMP), the Upper East Region tops with 81.9 per cent, followed by Upper West with 78.7 per cent.
The Northern Region is third with a rate of 72.9 per cent, followed by the Central Region as the fourth highest on the table with 18.1 per cent, while the Volta Region places fifth with 13.8 per cent. It is thus no wonder that the five regions have been selected for the CLTS programme – they are the top five open defecation areas in the country.
Participants at the forum, who were drawn from both regional and district offices of the Environmental Health and Sanitation Directorate (EHSD) of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, as well as CLTS focal persons, NGOs and development partners, listened to the success stories of the regions doing relatively well in implementing CLTS, while finding ways of tackling the critical challenges militating against the successful implementation of the strategy.
Meanwhile, as a result of the poor sanitation coverage in Ghana, sanitation related diseases such as cholera, diarrhoea and dysentery among others, have become a regular feature in the country, leading to thousands of needless deaths, especially of children under five years of age.
Available statistics say about 2,000 children die daily from sanitation related diseases globally, and it is believed that the stepping up of community led total sanitation (CLTS), would do the country a lot of good by encouraging communities to take their sanitation destiny into their own hands.
By Edmund Smith-Asante & Peter Serinye