Available statistics indicates that about one out of five Ghanaians defecate in the open, translating into an estimated 5.7 million Ghanaians engaging in open defecation.
A UNIICEF study has also revealed that, one gram of human faeces may contain 10 million viruses, one million bacteria, 1,000 parasite cysts and 100 parasite eggs, all these having a negative consequences for health, productivity and socio-economic development.
M-Code, which is made up of media houses including the Ghana News Agency, Ghanaian Times, Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, Multimedia Group, Daily Graphic, CitiFm, among others, was therefore launched to help inform and educate the people to engender the needed behaviour change.
In a speech read on behalf of Mrs Cecelia Abena Dapaah, Minister of Sanitation and Water Resources by her Deputy Minister Patrick Boamah, said it was highly unacceptable that people still defecate openly and therefore, there was the need to take an urgent and decisive action to reverse the trend.
She said the government had rolled out various measures to improve sanitation situation in the country and that the government’s agenda of ensuring that every household had improved toilet was on course.
She revealed that the Ministry through the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area (GAMA) Sanitation and Water Project had constructed about 11,000 household toilets, serving about 88,000 people within the Region.
A total of 406 school toilet facilities were also being provided for 165,000 pupils under the GAMA project.
Mrs Dapaah said as a measure to centrally connect households in densely populated and low income urban communities such as Bankuman in Tema, Lakpana in La and Ashaiman, the GAMA project was also developing decentralised sewerage systems that would benefit over 15,000 individuals.
She announced that the Ministry had also directed all Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives whose mandate it was to clean the cities, towns and villages “to step up their game in providing sanitation services”.
Turning her attention to the media, the Minister indicated that the goal of making household toilets a social norm in all communities, would be eluded without the support of the media, saying, “the mass media fully clutching an issue like open defecation head on will result in an unimaginable impact”.
She therefore, gave the Ministry’s assurance to work with the Ghana Journalists Association under the GAMA project, to include a special recognition in this year’s GJA awards for media house that will distinguish itself in the M-CODe agenda against open defecation.
Mr Yaw Attah Arhin, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Technical Coordinator with World Vision International, who spoke on behalf of NGO partners made up of the Coalition of NGOs in Water and Sanitation (CONIWAS), said it was such a worry that close to 20 percent of the Ghanaian population engage in open defecation, which was probably one of the greatest threats to life and child wellbeing in the 21 century Ghana and Africa.
“It is sad to observe that children were dying every day from diseases such as diarrhoea, cholera and typhoid fever, when these were easily preventable with affordable and proven interventions such as the use of improved latrines and hand-washing with soap”, he said.
Mr Arhin expressed the regret that despite increasing political and public interest and greater attention in recent times, progress on ending open defecation had been painfully slow.
He therefore, encouraged the government and the Ministry of Sanitation to intensify its provision of leadership and strategic direction with clear and achievable road map towards ending open defecation.
He also urged the government and its stakeholders to pay attention to the WASH situation in schools and health facilities to help create a conducive environment for quality education and healthcare.
Mrs Linda Asante Agyei, Vice President of the GJA, on behalf of the Association declared support for zero tolerance for open defecation.
She urged the media houses to lend their fullest support by way of providing free airtime and newspaper space for jingles, articles and sensitisation programmes.