The Monitoring and Evaluation Officer of the Upper West Regional Environmental Health and Sanitation Department, Mr Agambire Alhassan Inusah, says the Region has recorded 65 per cent Open Defecation Free (ODF) coverage.

According to him, out of a total of 1,167 communities in the Region, 758 communities had attained ODF status.

Mr Agambire, who said in an interview with the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in Wa, added that from January to July 2020, 32 communities were converted to ODF with Jirapa Municipality recording 16 ODF communities within the period.

The rest were: Nadowli/Kaleo District, eight communities, Wa and Sissala East Municipalities recorded three ODF communities each while Daffiama/Bussie/Issah District recorded two ODF communities within the period of January to July 2020.

The Upper West Regional Inter-Agency Coordinating Committee on Sanitation (RICCS) and development partners had been implementing projects and programmes, including the Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) and GoG/ UNICEF Results Based Financing (RBF) propramme in the Region, which were geared towards achieving a region-wide ODF by the end of 2021.

Mr Inussah explained that the COVID-19 pandemic had adversely affected the ODF campaign activities in the Region.

He said due to the COVID-19 pandemic, sanitation officers could not visit communities to engage people on sanitation related issues including Open Defecation (OD).

“Sanitation is a matter of behaviour change and officers have to visit the communities to engage the people, but because of COVID-19 we could not do so. Because of that some households who started digging their pits did not complete them,” he explained.

The M&E Officer stated that they would resume vigorous community engagement to sensitise the communities to help change their attitude towards OD and sanitation in general.

He noted that currently, Jirapa Municipality, Wa West, Nadowli/Kaleo and Daffiama/Bussie/Issah Districts were implementing the RBF project, and touted Jirapa Municipality for being the best performing Municipality in the implementation of the RBF programme.

He observed that all efforts to get the various Municipal and District Assemblies (MDAs) in the Region to enact and gazette sanitation by-laws to help fight the menace of OD had yielded no results.

“It will be difficult to prosecute sanitation offenders if the by-laws are not there and people will continue to defecate in the open,” he said.

However, as part of efforts to improve access to sanitation services, including toilets, the Toilet Engineers and Sanitation Service (TESS) Limited in the Upper West Region, had been constructing affordable and descent bio-digester toilets for household, offices and public places such as schools and markets.

Mr Inussah told the GNA that TESS was ready to partner any organisation to improve Sanitation in the country.