According to the 2021 Population and Housing Census, 17.7 per cent representing about 5.5 million people in Ghana still practice open defecation.
“It is also sad to observe that 3,600 children die every year from diseases such as diarrhea, cholera and typhoid fever when these are easily preventable with affordable and proven interventions such as the use of improved toilet and hand-washing with soap under running water”.
Mr Yaw Attah Arhin, the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Technical Specialist, World Vision Ghana, revealed this in Bolgatanga at the launch of the Upper East Regional branch of Media Coalition Against Open Defecation (M-CODe).
According to the WASH Technical Specialist, 26 per cent, representing 8,500 public basic schools did not have toilet facilities while 25 per cent of public basic schools did not have water facilities, compelling students to defecate in the open and trek for long distances to access water.
Mr Arhin, who is also the Chairman of the Ghana Coalition of NGOs in the Water and Sanitation Sector (CONIWAS), said according to the Multiple Indicator cluster Survey (MICS), 2018, only eight per cent of people in the Upper East Region had access to toilet facilities, which was the lowest among the 16 regions in the country.
Also, the 2021 Population and Housing census revealed that the region recorded 68.4 per cent of people practicing open defecation, the highest in the country.
He said the fight against open defecation needed collective efforts from all stakeholders and underscored the urgent need for government and other stakeholders to sustainably invest in the WASH sector to significantly mitigate the canker.
“Despite the increasing political and public interest and greater attention in recent times, progress towards ending Open Defecation has been painfully slow. We wish to encourage government and the Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources to continue to provide leadership and strategic direction for implementing the road map for ending Open Defecation in Ghana,” he added.
Mr Charles Yinbil Awuni, the Programmes Officer at Upper East Regional Environmental Health and Sanitation Agency, noted that out of 2,313 communities in the region, only 1,103 communities had attained Open Defecation Free status since 2016.
He explained that although some communities had been triggered and yet to be verified, the practice was still high among residents in the region and underscored the need for strategic investment to sustain gains made by development partners in the WASH sector.
Mr William Jalulah, the Upper East Regional Chairman, Ghana Journalists Association, said apart from the need for the Assemblies to enforce bylaws on sanitation to bite hard on perpetuators, government needed to take urgent steps to criminalize the practice of open defecation to deter people from such practice.
Mr Francis Ameyibor, National Convener, M-CODe, noted that there was the need for media practitioners to be abreast with issues of sanitation to enable them to advocate for improved systems to eradicate open defecation.
He said apart from exposing the menace in communities and educating the population on the need to heed to good sanitation practices, journalists needed to use their influential platforms to challenge authorities at all levels to take concrete actions to end open defecation.
M-CODe, established in 2018, through World Vision Ghana and Kings Hall Media partnership, is an advocacy media organisation aimed at ending open defecation through a coordinated approach among journalists.