About 4.8 million people in Ghana (20 per cent of the national population) practice open defecation, known in local parlance as “free range”, a survey conducted by the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD) has revealed.
The situation is as a result of lack of access to toilet facilities.
Officials describe the situation as “very serious” especially ‘as the Millennium Development Goals (MOGs) has set a zero open defecation target for the country by 2015.
The acting Director of Environmental Health and Sanitation Division of the Ministry, Demedeme Naa Lenason, made this known at the opening of the second National Environmental Sanitation Conference (NESCON) and the launch of the national sanitation week in Kumasi.
It was on the theme: “Enhancing public private partnership for improving environmental sanitation services and good governance for a better Ghana.” Demedeme Lenason further disclosed that 54 per cent of households use shared facilities. This is against the MDG target of 0.2 per cent usage by 2015.
Describing the entire state of liquid waste management in the country as poor, the acting director called for concerted efforts at arresting the problem.
Nonetheless, he commended the government for showing the political commitment towards achieving the MDGs.
In a speech read on his behalf by the sector minister, Mr Samuel Ofosu-Ampofo, the Vice President, Mr John Dramani Mahama, acknowledged the challenges posed by poor environmental sanitation to national development in spite of the huge investments that went into the sector from government and development partners.
“It is sad to note that at this age of our nation’s history only 13 per cent of us have access to improved latrines and less than 30 per cent of our solid waste is managed, with the rest thrown into drains and open spaces,” he added.
The Vice President called for strict enforcement of national and assemblies’ byelaws on sanitation.
“This is not to say that progress has not been made,” he said, stressing that what was required was doubling the strides in the face of population growth.
The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, he noted, has put in place the required policy, institutional and implementation frameworks to address the challenges in the sector but this could be possible when all the players played their roles with all seriousness.
He challenged the conference to discuss mechanisms for waste avoidance, recycling, recovery, appropriate licensing, and disposal of problematic waste and related burning issues.
Mr Mahama said Cabinet had recommended the legislation of the “polluter pays principle” as part of the recently approved revised environmental sanitation policy, and charged the sector ministry to ensure that the principle went through the required legislative process to make it enforceable.
He expressed the hope that the principle would provide opportunities for waste generators to contribute to sustainable financing of waste management services rather than making it the sole responsibility of government and MMDAs.
The Ashanti Regional Minister, Dr Kwaku Agyemang-Mensah, stressed the need for the nation to create value for its waste.
He urged the people to practice good sanitation to help minimise the incidence of certain diseases.