Ghana has no Household Water Treatment policy

Children_waterAlthough for three days this week (from May 6 to May 8, 2013) deliberations have been ongoing in Ghana at a workshop in Accra on the integration of Household Water Treatment and Safe Storage (HWTS) strategies in the West Africa sub-region, Ghana is yet to incorporate this component in its Water Policy.

This was identified at the country’s 26th National Level Learning Alliance Platform (NLLAP), organised by the Resources Centre Network (RCN) and held on Thursday, May 31, 2012.

According to the RCN’s WASH Reflections, which is a monthly review of NLLAP numbered 25 and titled “Household Water Treatment and Storage: The story so far”, “There are three policy related gaps that must be addressed to advance Household Water Treatment and Storage (HWTS) in Ghana.”

These, it lists as its lack of mention in Ghana’s Water Policy, the absence of household water quality regulation and the lack of coordination and documentation of HWTS efforts.

The review quotes Mr. Lenason Naa Demedeme, Acting Director, Environmental Health and Sanitation Directorate (EHSD) of Ghana’s Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, whose presentation on the theme “Household Water Treatment and Storage Strategy in Ghana: Taking HWTS to Scale” initiated discussions.

“We need to focus on HWTS because…Next to HWWS (Hand Washing with Soap), HWTS is the most effective intervention for reducing morbidity from diarrhoeal diseases (if used correctly and consistently over the long-term)”, RCN quoted the EHSD Acting Director, whose presentation was made on his behalf by a programme officer of his outfit, Kwaku Quansah.

“Generally, household water treatment for microbiological water quality is promising but the problem is that approaches are uncoordinated and there is no strategy for implementation to scale,” Lenason Demedeme stated.

“This is where an HWTS strategy becomes imperative. The goal is that by 2015, 90% of the population of Ghana should be aware and 15% should be ‘consistently practicing effective HWTS methods in a manner that renders the water they use compliant with national standards,” he indicated.

The EHSD boss explained that “In furtherance of national strategies for water, sanitation and hygiene, the purpose of the national strategy for HWTS is to contribute to a measurable reduction in waterborne diseases, by encouraging the adoption and long-term use of effective HWTS, especially by the population segment that does not have access to safe drinking water.”

In an interview with Mr. Kwaku Quansah, EHSD Programme Officer Wednesday, May 8, 2013 after the West Africa Regional Household Water Treatment and Safe Storage workshop in Accra on the theme: “Scaling-up HWTS – National policy environment and integration strategies”, he expressed optimism that Ghana’s Water Policy will be reviewed to include HWTS in 2013, because it has been captured in the national budget statement.

“Then with the issue of coordination we have come very far. We have brought on board a bigger working group of HWTS and the issue of safety plans – it’s all being worked on – UNICEF wants to use Ghana as a case study and look at the issue of water safety plans where we have the source in the household,” he indicated.

Mr. Quansah disclosed the workshop was organised to share knowledge and ideas on the current household water treatment storage plans in the West Africa sub region. He noted that countries in especially English-speaking West Africa have of late done a lot of work on HWTS and so the workshop served as a forum to share ideas and experiences to even carry the process further.

“Wonderfully Ghana shared its experience trying to put the three behaviour change focus areas together – safe excreta, hand washing with soap and household water treatment and storage, I think it is something that really other countries admire,” he stated.

The EHSD programme officer divulged that the next step after the workshop is the development of a final scale up plan for implementation, which will entail working on a draft detailing experiences of countries in West Africa on HWTS.

“Luckily it’s been part of our [Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development and other stakeholders] 2013 plan, so it is easy to roll it out,” he said.

Also gleaning from Ghana’s Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) 2009 report, the NLLAP two-page review states that only 1% to 7% of households in Ghana treat their drinking water, with boiling being the predominantly adopted treatment method, although in many instances the treated water is subjected to re-contamination.

However, according to the 2008 Ghana Demographic Health Survey (DHS), about 7.5% of Ghanaian households treat their drinking water using an “appropriate” treatment method, with the most prominent method employed being straining through a cloth, followed by boiling, chlorine and filtration.

The review indicates that the process of developing an HWTS strategy in Ghana stretches over the period 2007 to 2016, with the first phase of implementation focusing on household intervention for guinea worm eradication through the promotion of ceramic and biosand filters, as well as improved drinking water supply for flood affected households with emphasis on ceramic filters and aquatabs ending in 2011.

Within that time, other phases of the strategy have been pursued in the form of strategic decision of repackaging WASH (water, sanitation, hygiene) into four categories – enabling environment, behavioural change, water and sanitation services, and WASH in emergencies; evaluation and assessments of key interventions from 2009 to 2010; and development of national scaling up strategies from 2010 to 2011, according to RCN.

The network adds that the final phase of the strategy development involves scaling up implementation over the period 2012 to 2016, disclosing that during this period, specific activities such as implementation of WASH programmes in five regions, adaptation and use by other sector programmes, continued coordination, monitoring, evaluation, documentation and learning would be carried out.

According to RCN, the HWTS strategy emphasises four common water treatment technologies: disinfection, filtration, chlorination and sedimentation, and that an estimated 650,000 Ghanaians are targeted as direct beneficiaries from HWTS products and hygiene promotions during the first phase of the national strategy implementation.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has just published a 68-page document on “Evaluating Household Water Treatment Options”, which sets out global criteria that enables users to evaluate whether a household water treatment option reduces waterborne pathogens sufficiently to protect health.

The range of technical recommendations provided will certainly be an invaluable guide to effective HWTS.

By Edmund Smith-Asante

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