The country has been performing abysmally with sanitation coverage of only 15 percent, making the practice of open defecation a key sanitation challenge because people do not have access to key basic facilities.
The practice does not only cost the country $79million a year but also poses the greatest danger to human health and can have fatal consequences, particularly for the most vulnerable, including young children.David Duncan, Chief Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Officer at the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), disclosed this during a breakfast meeting for editors to give them an insight to the problematic issues of open defecation, its environmental and health impacts, particularly on growing children.
The meeting, organised ahead of this year’s World Toilet Day which falls on November 19, gave editors a deeper understanding of what is at stake if the nation fails to deal with open defecation effectively.
Presenting the ‘Menace of Open Defecation’ to the gathering, Mr Duncan said five million Ghanaians do not have access to any toilet facility with 20 million not having access to basic improved sanitation.
He mentioned that statistics show that the country has made zero progress in improving sanitation facilities for citizens, with urban situation being better than the rural areas.
Mr Duncan said the Upper East Region has the highest open defecation rate with 89 percent, followed by Northern Region with 72 percent and Upper West Region with 71 percent.
He said it was time government prioritised ending open defecation as it perpetuates the vicious cycle of diseases and entrenched poverty which is evident in the recent cholera outbreak that claimed over 200 lives.
Mr Duncan observed that improved sanitation can reduce diarrhoea and its related deaths by 36 percent as well as prevent 20 percent diarrhoea-related stunting in children.
The UNICEF chief WASH officer further indicated that in order for the country to end open defecation, government must have a national plan that is supported by the presidency to facilitate a change in the social norm of open defecation to a point where using toilet facilities will be socially acceptable
The editors in turn called for the enforcement of sanitation by-laws in communities while asking for better courtship between government and media.