An assessment of government’s nationwide Free Water programme to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic shows that though many Ghanaians enjoyed and applauded the initiative, some pro-poor communities did not enjoy the intervention.
The study, conducted by the Coalition of NGOs in Water and Sanitation (CONIWAS), indicated that pro-poor communities did not enjoy the free water initiative due to limited access to water distribution pipelines.
It was done in three randomly selected communities -Janman, Gonse, and Olebu in the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area (GAMA) to assess the extent to which access to safe water was achieved through the government free water policy.
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo on April 5, 20202 announced an emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic during, which he declared the provision of free potable water to the entire Ghanaian populace.
The directive, which lasted for 15 months in two phases, was targeted at all water users and lifeline customers of the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL).
Presenting a policy brief on the initiative at a press conference in Accra on Friday, Mr Yaw Atta Arhin, CONIWAS Chairman, said the receptacle water that was accessed aided adherence to the safety protocols.
“Government’s assessment of the initiate shows that the average monthly water supply increased by 44.5 per cent from 9,240.495m3 to 13,351,853m3,” he said.
Mr Arhin said that meant that GWCL ensured the regular flow of water amidst increased demands for handwashing and other domestic chores during the period.
He said directives of that nature required broader stakeholder consultations to garner various inputs and approaches to ensure clear benchmarks, which were established for smooth implementation.
The Chairman said the GWCL needed to have a clear pro-poor targeting policy and procedures that would address special vulnerabilities beyond the broader Low-Income Customer Support Unit (LICSU) geographic targeting approach.
He also called for an increased financing and investment in the water and sanitation sector, stating that such investments should focus on the extension or replacement of obsolete water distribution lines in low-income communities in the whole country.
Mr Arhin said government should develop a good monitoring mechanism for such initiatives in the future to track progress, achievements, and challenges and establish feedback mechanisms for reporting to the public.
The study further recommended that the GWCL and CWSA worked together to develop one comprehensive pro-poor policy for the water sector for water provision, which addressed the weaknesses of future directives as happened last year.
CONIWAS said the current review of the National Water Policy should explicitly mention mechanisms for targeting and addressing the safe water needs of poor and vulnerable groups.
“For future interventions regarding emergencies, there should be adequate consultations with stakeholders to establish clear modalities for facilitating the implementation of the intervention.”
The study said the participation and involvement of Civil Society Organisations in future programmes would be strategic in fashioning out guidelines and implementation of water policies and directives.