At midday of 26th day of August 2019, Lambert Coffie Atsivor, a resident of Ho is worried about where to get a meal he could trust is wholesome for his consumption to satisfy his hunger.
Lambert’s search for a food vendor he could trust is not because there are no restaurants or food vendors in Ho. It has arisen as a result of the fact that the Ho Municipality was experiencing a water shortage for almost two weeks at the time. The concerns of Atsivor were born out of the inalienable and inseparability of water, sanitation and his health.
Water is said to be life. But residents of the Ho Municipality were without potable water for days as a result of the damage of the main pipeline that conveys water from the production point at Kpeve Tornu to Ho.
According to officials of the Ghana Water Company, the damage of the pipeline was occasioned by the washing away of two concrete pillars holding the pipeline by river Tsawe near Akrofu.
Efforts by the Ghana Water Company to resolve the challenge has even resulted in the death of a technician. The deceased got drowned in the Tsawe river close to where the broken pipeline was. The police are currently investigating the circumstances leading to the drowning of the deceased, Christopher Somey, 28 who was in the company of two others during repairs works at the site.
The water shortage described as the worst in over 30 years, continued as deadlines given by the Ghana Water Company Ltd pass without water in the taps.
Dried up and worn-out water sources
The popular yellow litre gallons known as ‘Kufuor gallons’ have become a regular feature across the municipality.
Many residents have resorted to fetching water from almost dried up streams, wells and boreholes that are constantly running out because of the pressure on them as a result of the sheer number of people fetching these sources of water.
The Loboli stream became the saviour of residents around the SSNIT flats, Kabore and Residency areas which soon dried up as a result of the pressure.
Underground water storage at the Headquarters of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Ho Kpodzi, came handy for many around Ho Ahoe, Heve and Dome.
Almost dried up wells at EPUC campus and nearby vicinities became places of congregation of several head pans, buckets and yellow gallons in competition for water for residents around Ho-Hliha and parts of Bankoe.
Car washing bays became busy, not only for washing vehicles but selling water from their borehole pumps for those who could afford it.
The situation had a toll on productivity as workers were forced to queue for hours to fetch from these streams, wells, boreholes and any available sources of water.
“The wells ran out. So I just filled my tank with petrol and drive around to find out where I can get some water. I go to work, say, 10am or 11am because I have three kids in the house and I have to get water to bath them and send them to school, if the water I have is not enough, I leave work around 3:00pm to look for water,” said a resident, Maxwell Budu
Households are under pressure as chores that require water are deferred over and over, with serious implications for sanitation and hygiene. Some residents were practising what they refer to as ‘shit on shit’ system, meaning adding on faeces to already filled toilet pot of faeces, in homes where there were water closet toilet facilities.
“If you have extra water, you would be thinking about how you go to the washroom. How are you going to flush? After flushing, would you get enough water to bath,” laments another resident, Pearl Grunitzky.
Open defecation was rife during the period. Some residents close to any available bush or open gutters emptied their bowels in the bushes and open gutters.
Open drains that ran through Anlo-Kordzi in Ho were at the receiving end of faecal matter tied in plastics. It was a common scene to see both adults (men and women) and children defecating in the drains of Children’s Park behind the Sonrise Basic School and The Lord’s Pentecostal Church.
The Kabakaba hills area remained at its much-known state of open defecation.
Even though it was an unfortunate development, taxi drivers were cashing in on the situation as helpless residents seek their services to get some gallons of water.
Health delivery in hospitals
The situation had had a serious toll on health delivery in the Ho Municipality, overstretching the health delivery facilities in the Volta Regional Capital.
The Ho Municipal Hospital and the Ho Teaching Hospital had to rely on the services of the Ghana National Fire Service to continue running the facilities in such a dire situation because the availability of clean running water is key to health delivery, with specific regard to sanitation, personal hygiene of patients, safe food and drinking water.
Luckily, the Ho Teaching Hospital recently built three boreholes to help it to become self-sufficient in terms of water supply. According to the Chief Executive Officer of the hospital, Dr. John Tampouri, the Hospital had to buy water for the hospital’s overhead tanks to supply to the wards and pump water from the boreholes, which are yet to have a treatment plant, for the sanitary purposes to supplement because, one of the boreholes has high iron content that requires processing.
Except for that, the Hospital would not have to buy water.
Some cases, which hitherto would have been handled by the Municipal Hospital, were referred to the Teaching Hospital because of the pressure on the Ho Municipal Hospital, which also relied heavily on the tanker services of the Ghana National Fire Service.
Serious public health risks
This situation poses serious health concerns.
According to UNICEF, ‘’in spite of the progress that has been made to ensure that children and families every part of the country have access to safe drinking water, data has shown that 76 per cent of households are at risk of drinking water contaminated with faecal matter.’’
According to Public Health Specialist at the Ho Teaching Hospital, Dr Emmanuel Kasu, a longer period of similar water crisis could possibly trigger serious public health concerns such a rise in diseases such as Cholera, Typhoid and Dysentery.
He stressed that sources of water used by food vendors in preparing food for sale, cannot be guaranteed during such an acute water shortage.
This fact lays credence to the fear of some residents, like Lambert Atsivor.
Imminent shortage to hit Ho again
Residents were getting weary as all sources of water they are resorting to were drying up. They have come to their wits’ end in search of water.
At last, water was restored after the Ghana Water Company fixed the broken pipeline over the Tsawe River. Bu the greater danger looming is the imminent collapse of the very bridge that was the subject of the August 2019 water crisis.
The bridge is already caving in, which is a major concern for authorities at the Ghana Water Company Ltd.
“We are afraid of the nature of the road of the road because the pipeline is a rigid material, 20inch steel pipe, which is quite heavy, resting on a weaker bridge,” stated the Regional Chief Manager of the Ghana Water Company Ltd, Joseph Nkrumah.
Even when the bridge is finally fixed, the other challenge is the sufficiency of water from the Processing Plant at Kpeve Tornu. The plant, built in 1994, is only able to produce 2.5million gallons of water per day, out of 17miillion gallons of demand.
“We need 17million and we are producing 2.5million gallons a day. Definitely, we have to ration water,” said Joseph Nkrumah.
It is also intriguing to note that the capacity of the Processing Plant at Kpeve is 4million gallons a day. In effect, even the plant’s capacity cannot meet the demand of the municipality.
United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, is about ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030.
This can only be achieved if there are more sources of potable water sufficient enough to meet the demand of the ever-growing population.
In the face of this imminent crisis, a sustainable alternative source of water is one sure way of averting the dire consequences of the absence of the regular water supply system.
Dr. Emmanuel Kasu is of the view that the Ghana Water Company Ltd should be working out some arrangement for an alternative supply of water to the Ho Municipality in readiness and for the future sustainability of supply, should the need arise.
“Technology fails. But there should be alternatives at both domestic and industrial levels,” he said.
Boreholes, streams and wells are some of the accessible alternative sources of water. The Public Health specialist advised that institutions and individuals that can afford, should explore drilling boreholes as an alternative source of water which has the tendency of making them self-sufficient in terms of water supply.
Dr. Kasu stressed that even though all the three sources mentioned require some level of treatment, boreholes are relatively safer than streams and well.
However, boreholes may contain some minerals such as iron and magnesium that will require some treatment if the minerals are beyond minimum acceptable levels.
He argued that water from streams may have bacteria and other microorganisms and will require treatment by boiling, chlorination by application of chlorine tablets, and filtration.
Dr Kasu also advised that wells should not be sighted close to toilet facilities because they could be contaminated by faecal matter from the toilets.
He, however, advised that households should also cultivate the culture of harvesting and storing rainwater for use in homes.
It is obvious that water would continue to be a challenge for the Ho Municipality so long as the fundamental issues of insufficient supply, bad road and the bridge on which supply lines pass as well as the unavailability of sustainable alternatives exist.