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21 million Ghanaians don’t have improved toilets – WaterAid

Public toiletsThe Government of Ghana is failing to keep its promises on funding for sanitation, a new report launched simultaneously in the UK and four other African countries; Niger, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Uganda, February 20, 2013, by the international development charity, WaterAid, has revealed.

According to the development charity, although from 1990 to 2010 the population of Ghana grew by 9.4 million, only 2.3 million people secured access to sanitation over the same period.  WaterAid says in total, nearly 21 million (86%) out of Ghana’s 24 million people are without access to a safe improved toilet, while almost 50% use shared latrines and 19% practice open defecation.

The report, “The Keeping promises: why African leaders need now to deliver on their past water and sanitation commitments” warns that unless investment is increased, the challenges of urbanisation, inequality of access, climate change and population growth risk turning back the clock even further.

It uses the government’s own figures to demonstrate that funding on sanitation has fallen short of its public commitments.

Between 2008 and 2011 Ghana has spent on average 0.34% of its GDP – GH¢116.45 million – on water and sanitation combined.  This is far short of the 0.5% of GDP that the government committed to spend on sanitation alone through the 2008 eThekwini African Union Declaration, the report said.

The WaterAid report calls on the Government of Ghana, alongside other African governments, to not only meet their 2008 eThekwini spending commitments of 0.5% of GDP, but to go further by aiming to spend at least 1% of GDP on sanitation and hygiene, in line with the recommendations of a 2011 World Bank report (Water and Sanitation Infrastructure Access, Affordability, and Alternatives) .

It also highlights World Bank figures showing that poor sanitation access currently costs Ghana 1.6% of its GDP a year, which is four times the average annual amount being spent to improve access to both water and sanitation.

Commenting on the report, Dr. Afia Zakiya, WaterAid Ghana’s Country Representative said “Ghanaians waste 850 million hours every year looking for somewhere to go to the toilet and you can add to this the costs of illness and medical bills of those contracting diseases due to the unhygienic conditions.  Overall, the loss to Ghana is 420 million cedis per year.  Now is the time for the government to meet its financial commitments on sanitation, and end sanitation and water poverty, and its daily toll on human life, health and livelihoods.”

Meanwhile, five years on, little progress has been made on separate budget lines for spending on sanitation and water, which is another key commitment made as part of the eThekwini Declaration to improve accountability and track progress.

By Edmund Smith-Asante

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