Feature: KVIPs, now ‘Abattoirs’

As part of policy initiatives to address the sanitation situation in the country, the government of Ghana introduced the KVIPs system, otherwise referred to as “Kumasi ventilated improved pits” in the early 1990s.

Currently, there are a number of these KVIPs constructed and many more are still being built across the country, now best described as “abattoirs” in the country. While these KVIPs do not only reek, the only toilet system available to the under-privileged majority of Ghanaians, is usually not excavated or emptied, as required, for months, if not years, making these public places of convenience to smell horribly bad.

Indeed, in 2008, the World Health Organisation and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) ranked Ghana as the fourth most unsanitary country on the African continent and the second dirtiest country in West Africa.

Indiscriminate open defecation has been on the increase in most parts of the regions in the country and research indicates that more than five million Ghanaian resort to open defecation in all the regions, leading to the outbreak of cholera.

On March 22, 2011, the Ghana News Agency reported that out of the recorded 4,586 cases and 64 deaths from the cholera outbreak in the country since September 2010, the Greater Accra Region is leading with 2,756 cases and 31 deaths, while the Upper East, Eastern and Central regions are the other regions hit by the epidemic. Also, in July 2011, it was reported that three people had died from cholera at Agona Nyakrom in the Agona West Municipality of the Central Region, following an outbreak of the disease. In the same month, three cholera related deaths were recorded at the Moree Health Centre in the Abura-Asebu-Kwamankese (AAK) District.

Consequently, over four million of Ghana’s population is said to have no access to proper sanitation facilities. This tells how serious the sanitation situation is in Ghana; and no one should pretend that this is a far-fetched truth.

Almost 90% of illnesses on earth are environmentally or sanitation related. Among these are cholera, typhoid, and diarrhea. Diarrhea is said to the leading cause of illness and death worldwide. About 88% of these illnesses are said to be caused by poor sanitation or unsafe water. Mortality rates due to poor sanitation are sky-rocketing in sub-Sahara Africa than conflict and HIV/AIDS and this explains why the issue of sanitation should be taken more seriously.

In fact, it is reported that Ghana records over 400,000 out-patient cases of sanitation related diseases, including diarrhea, typhoid, cholera and hepatitis, leading to about 65,000 deaths annually.

It is further reported that Ghana loses over US$290 million annually, equivalent to about 1.6% GDP and she is among other 18 African countries said to be investing under 0.1% of their GDP on sanitation.

If it is true that Ghana is under investing in the sanitation sub-sector, then this could explain why head-pan latrines and KVIPs are still being used as public places of convenience by majority of Ghanaians.

According to IRIN, Ghana’s Supreme Court banned the use of these latrines in July 2008, saying that, they violated people’s dignity, and ordered city authorities to arrest and prosecute users of such facilities.
The court also ordered the government to build public toilets across the capital and subsidise the construction of toilets in private homes, measures that are yet to be implemented, according to the Coalition of NGOs in Water and Sanitation (CONIWAS).

A visit to selected KVIP facilities around the Accra Metropolis alone, which usually serves as the entry point to Ghana, assuming everyone else comes by air, tells a very bad story about the mineral rich, oil producing country. Entering any of the KVIP facilities, one will see a vivid picture of primitive days, when human cilivilsation could only be equated to second class natural creatures, is being re-enacted.

Community residents, who normally manage these facilities, claim that numerous calls on the relevant authorities to save the situation usually fall on death ears, and the stinking nature of these KVIPs compel residents and other users to use our beaches as their preferred places of convenience.

Checks with the authorities responsible for regular maintenance also raised the issue of cost. They argued that budgetary allocations were inadequate to allow for regular excavation of these KVIPs.

Ironically, just last week, in the Wednesday, April 17, edition of the Daily Graphic, adverts inviting contractors to bid for the construction of 80 units of KVIPs in selected schools and districts in the Central Region by the Government of Ghana.

The question that is mind-boggling is that, how abreast are the authorities on the current state of these outmoded KVIPs, which are already in use? The argument we are making is that if the authorities were regularly monitoring these facilities, they would have probably come to the conclusion that this system should not be allowed to be operated in the country, if the outmoded facilities cannot be regularly maintained, at least. However, here we are, these outmoded KVIPs appear the best and the only solution to the country’s lavatory problem.

If there should be any critical national issue that we, as Ghanaians should be thinking about, then it should be the issue of an alternative solution to replace the KVIP toilet system in Ghana. Serious brainstorming and search for alternatives should also engage the attentions of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development and the Ministry of Health, in particular at this crucial moment.

In fact, the apparent long silence by civil society groups on the appalling toilet problems confronting Ghanaians should be broken, allowing the issue, which some described as a “national crisis” to be discussed.

Until the alternatives are found, Ghanaians will continue to make do with these ‘abattoir like’ KVIPs littered across the country.

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