More than 15,000 children die in Ghana annually of sanitation related diseases before attaining the age of five, a United Nations Human Development report has revealed.
The diseases include malaria, diarrhoea, typhoid and cholera.
Mr Kweku Quansah, Programme Officer at the Environmental Health Sanitation Directorate of the Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Environment disclosed this in Kumasi at the weekend.
He said 72 percent of Ghanaians, representing 18 million of the population, had household latrines, whilst the remaining 18 percent shared toilet facilities.
Mr Quansah was speaking at a seminar on sanitation for media practitioners in the northern sector of the country.
The two-day seminar, jointly organised by the Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Environment and the Coalition of non-governmental organisations in Water and Sanitation (CONIWAS) was attended by participants from Ashanti, Brong-Ahafo, Upper East, Upper West and Northern regions.
The objective of the seminar was to examine the causes and solutions to Ghana’s sanitation situation and to explore the peculiar roles of the mass media in increasing advocacy, demanding accountability as well as in throwing searchlight on sanitation as a national issue.
Mr Quansah noted with regret that, despite significant efforts by the government, progress on sanitation targets had been slow and uneven.
He said the government spent 732 million dollars annually on the treatment of malaria and that 70 percent of Out-Patient Department cases were sanitation related.
Mr Quansah emphasized that environmental sanitation was among the powerful drivers on a nation’s development as it affected the quality of life and the production of a sound population.
“As a result of sanitation related diseases, 10 percent of the Ghanaian electorate did not turn up to exercise their franchise in previous national elections”, he said.
Mr Quansah stressed the importance of recognizing the impact of sanitation on public health, poverty reduction, economic and social development and the environment.
He added that the national environmental sanitation policy (1999) was under review to make it more comprehensive.
Dr. Anthony Bonnah Koomson, a Senior Lecturer of the School of Communication Studies of the University of Ghana and a facilitator, stressed the need to construct special latrines for children.
This, he noted, would help minimise sanitation crisis and its repercussions on living conditions.
“If faeces is contained and recycled properly, it could be used to produce gas and electricity”, Dr. Koomson said.
He mentioned the lack of law enforcement, facility availability and behavioural change as contributory factors to high incidence of open defecation in the country.
Dr. Doris Yaa Dartey, a Communication Consultant and also a facilitator, urged the media to focus on sanitation as a national agenda.
She disclosed that Ghana ranked number 14 on sanitation crisis out of 15 countries in the sub-region, beating only Niger to the last position.
On solid waste, Dr. Dartey said Ghana was able to manage only 30 percent solid waste generated daily and that the deficit of 70 percent accounted for the incremental heaps of rubbish found throughout the country.
“Poor sanitation impacts negatively on human dignity, causes misery, impedes productivity and consigns millions of people to abject poverty”, Dr. Dartey added.
The facilitators took the participants through writing skills and investigative journalism.
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