Ghana loses GH¢420 million yearly due to poor sanitation, according to a desk study carried out by the Water and Sanitation Programme of the World Bank in 2010.
Sixteen million Ghanaians, also use insanitary or shared latrines, whilst 4.8 million have no latrines and attend to nature’s call in the open.
This was disclosed by Professor Yaw Oheneba-Sakyi, Director of the Institute of Continuing and Distance Education, at the opening of the 64th Annual New Year School and Conference in Accra on Monday.
The week’s conference is under the theme, “The Key to Future Health of our Nation: Improved Water, Sanitation and Hygiene,” is being sponsored by scores of institutions including the Ghana News Agency.
He said the “enormous” challenge posed by rapid urbanization, coupled with institutional weakness in physical planning policies, had led to the growth of slums which had no access to safe drinking water and good sanitary practices.
“Incidence and daily reporting of diarrhoea and malaria cases in our poor and rural communities are pointers to the fact that there are poor sanitation practices and the absence of hygiene education, which depletes the human resource needed for national development,” he said
Prof Oheneba-Sakyi said effective delivery of environmental sanitation services, remained one of the huge challenges of the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies.
He suggested a national crusade on sanitation to effect a drastic change “in our behaviour and attitude towards all waste issues and it should include advocacy at the highest level of government, effective implementation of policies and rigorous sanitation and hygiene education as well as enforcement management.”
Prof Oheneba-Sakyi said “failure to do so would mean Ghana could miss the Millennium Development Goal target for improved basic sanitation by 2015.
Justice (Prof) Samuel Date-Bah, Chairman of the Council, University of Ghana, Legon, who was also Chairman for the occasion, said “water, sanitation and hygiene are key to our survival and should not be left to government alone.”
He said with 1.6 million people dying from cholera and other sanitation related diseases every year all over the world, it was clear that the problem of sanitation needed to be tackled seriously.
Justice Date-Bah urged all stake-holders in the health sector, to contribute their quota towards ensuring that the sanitation situation in the country improved.
Mr Enoch Teye Mensah, Acting Minister of Water Resources, Works and Housing, formally opened the conference and said it was commendable to have such an occasion that afforded academicians the opportunity to contribute towards national development.
He said the country faced challenges in the area of water sanitation, adding that apart from poor sanitary practices that had adverse effects on water bodies, activities such as mining affected river bodies.
Mr Mensah expressed the hope that the conference would come up with recommendations that would improve upon the general sanitation situation in the country.