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Friday, 27 January 2017


Timothy Ngnenbe
Open defecation is one of the major sanitation challenges that the country is grappling with. Currently, it is estimated that almost a quarter of the country’s population do not use any latrine facility.
 Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) have a hell of time surmounting this daunting hurdle, even though a chunk of resources are sunk in to it.
Ghana is ranked the second most endemic country with an estimated
 5.7 million of its people engaged in open defecation in Africa, only a step above Sudan in first position.
The Nkwanta-North District in the Volta Region has its fair share of the sanitation challenge that relates to open defecation.
Growing up in this part of the country, I remember how as children, we took delight in doing our own thing our own way. We referred to it as “free ranging”, perhaps, burrowing the concept in animal husbandry where the animals are allowed to move about freely with little or no supervision from their keeper.
Little did I know that “free ranging” was a slow but sure way of digging one’s own grave and that of the community. So, is the issue of open defecation still prevalent in the Nkwanta-North district?  What step is the district assembly doing to curb the situation?
Carved out of the Nkwanta district and inaugurated in September 2004, the Nkwanta-North district has its capital located at Kpassa. The young district has gone through thick and thin to manage the numerous challenges bedeviling it.
Standing tall on the list of daunting challenges in the district is the issue of open defecation. Most of the towns and villages do not have public places of convenience, let alone the individual households.
So, the old and the young, males and females, attend to the call of nature in nearby bushes and refuse dumps nearer to the house.
In a few of the towns where some public facilities for that purpose exist, people still fail to use them. Sometimes, it is interesting to see a pile of refuse dump emerging and virtually engulfing the vicinities of public toilets, such that people prefer to squat behind it rather than use the toilet.
Why will people not use public toilets?
Some of the people I spoke to said it was better to go “free ranging” because anytime they use the public places of convenience, they could barely breath since the place is not properly maintained.
A 27-year old mechanic, who gave his name as “Labista,” said “if I am at my shop and feel freeing myself, do you expect me to go to these smelling things called toilets? The smell by the time I return to work will be enough to sack my apprentices. I don’t want to lose them”  
Some of the people also told me that they decided not to use the public toilets because the administrators of the facilities are misusing the money. To them, the best way to register their displeasure was to boycott its patronage and go to the bushes, where no one will ask for any fee.
Is “free ranging” really free?
There is a saying that if you construct a wooden bridge, it never breaks until you have crossed it yourself. Open defecation, according to health experts, is the major cause of diarrhea, which results in a lot of deaths.
Anytime it rains, the residues of the human excreta littered close to water bodies get washed into natural sources of water such as rivers, streams, polluting it in the process. Eventually, the same people, who are heavily dependent on those sources due to lack of potable water, go to fetch it for domestic use.
This situation puts them at risk of water-borne diseases such as bilharzia, dysentery, and many others. Even more, when human waste is left in the open, flies go to perch on it and go back to settle on uncovered food in the homes, leading to outbreak of diarrhea.
At the end of the day, families spend their meager income to treat these water-borne diseases in the limited health facilities in the district.
Sources at the three health centers in the district show that
Measures to curb open defecation
The task of ensuring improved sanitation rests on local authorities. How is the Nkwanta-North district assembly lacing its boots to address the situation?
The District Chief Executive (DCE) for the district, Mr Martin Kudor Kidibi, in an interview, said the assembly was in talks with Zoomlion Ghana to take over the management of the public places of convenience, a move that will ensure that will ensure proper management of the facilities.
“The assembly will also formulate bye-laws to regulate open defecation. The bye-law will make it a punishable act to deter people from it. To make it effective, we shall recruit Community Guards to do routine checks so that offenders can be tracked and dealt with,” he said.
The DCE added that all schools in the district have Health and Sanitation Officers who deal with sanitation issues and so, the district will work with them to improve the toilet facilities in schools to discourage the children from resorting to free range.
Traditional authorities, Assembly Members, Area Councils and Unit Committees, need to be encourage and motivated to monitor the and apply sanctions in their communities. 
The MMDAs and other building regulatory bodies should strictly enforce laws that will compel all households to get toilet facilities, especially, new buildings that will spring up.
Even as national policies to curb open defecation are unrolled, the onus lies on all and sundry to join the fight, for, a nation is like a boat; when it is hit by a storm, it sinks with all the people in it.
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