“Reverse development” – when mobile phones are prioritized over toilets

Sun, 22 Nov 2015 Source: Essel, Kojo Cobba

It does not take a genius to figure out that there can be no significant development when people live in poor sanitary conditions. History fortunately reminds us that no country or group of people have made progress when they are unable to manage filth. The Good Book gives a detailed description of handling different situations with a potential to trample on good sanitation.

In a country where 22% of the population practice open defaecation daily and ONLY 14.9% have access to household toilets yet a single mobile phone service provider has over 10 million subscribers then something must be very wrong. I am not saying we need fewer phones but we definitely need many more toilet facilities and clearly we can do it once we prioritise it. Attempting to improve non-vital technology before tackling sanitation is an exercise in futility. We will term this “reverse development” and I am afraid it will not work. We have not been spared the immediate implications of poor sanitation such as frequent cases of cholera leading to death, yet we soldier on with no direct action to improve our lot.

Consider the many cases of diarrhoea in the country and think about the fact that in many cases of diarrhoea, one may directly or indirectly have eaten shit (pardon my language but it delivers the message better). When over 90% of faeces is improperly disposed off in a country, what else could we expect? Water bodies, drains, open spaces etc. bear the brunt of fresh human faeces and many more. These eventually end up in our drinking water and food in an attempt to add flavor to even a bland meal. We all contribute to this: I am sure your favourite way-side meal is close to a gutter or public toilet facility. Do prove me wrong.

We are not alone when it comes to poor sanitation but we certainly rank among the poorest as recent data has shown. People have protested against some of these findings but I doubt anyone out there hates us so much they want to fake results so that they can hang us.

November 19th is WORLD TOILET DAY and this year the focus is on Sanitation and Nutrition.


• Toilets play an important role in supporting better nutrition and improved health

• Poor nutrition is aggravated by lack of access to clean drinking water and proper sanitation and also the absence of good hygienic practices

o Imagine having diarrhoea or vomiting, the little nutrients you may have in your food are lost.

• Women and girls risk rape and abuse because they have no toilet that offers privacy while they do their own thing.

• It is a human right to have clean water and sanitation yet 4 billion people worldwide do not have adequate sanitation and 1 billion defaecate in the open

• The effects of poor sanitation have been shown to impact adversely on the health and well-being of children. It even stifles the ability of children to think and negatively impacts on learning in the early years of childhood. Our future at even more risk!

My interaction with Ing Harold Esseku who has extensive experience in Water Supply, Sanitation and Environment has been a real eye-opener. Harold is an authority on issues involving everything listed above and when he talks about “shit” you have to sit up and listen.

We live in and see the harm that poor sanitation causes on a daily basis. It’s long overdue for each of us to do our bit while those tasked with planning, implementing and making funds available stop shortchanging us #wecantwait any longer, everyone worldwide must have access to a toilet!


Dr. Kojo Cobba Essel

Moms’ Health Club/Health Essentials


Dr Essel is a medical doctor, holds an MBA and is ISSA certified in exercise therapy and fitness nutrition.

Thought for the week – “We have a moral imperative to end open defecation and a duty to ensure women and girls are not at risk of assault and rape simply because they lack a sanitation facility. - Ban Ki Moon, UN Secretary General, November 2014, World Toilet Day.”


1. Resource Person; Ing Harold Esseku, MBA, MSc, MGhIE. Director, Rapha Consult

2. Background Information on World Toilet Day courtesy UN.ORG

3. Excerpts from 17th November World Toilet Day Conference in Accra.

CONFERENCE THEME: “The Sustainable Development Goals and the Sanitation Conundrum in Ghana”

Columnist: Essel, Kojo Cobba