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Opinions Sun, 15 Mar 2020

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The terror staring at us in the face

“We shall not defeat any of the infectious diseases that plague the world until we have also won the battle for safe drinking water, sanitation and basic health care”. – Kofi Annan

The beach, undoubtedly is one best place to cool off after a hectic day which nonetheless ended up making me much more distressed than I could ever had imagine.

How?

At a Dansoman beach, I took a seat in the open sand facing the waves, when a nice gentleman walked by and just ahead of me, he squatted and eased himself

just at the mouth of the sea, walked into the water, wash his buttocks and his face as well with same water after which he strolled away as if I was invisible.

With such action, I am compelled to ask: Did he not care that the water he used to wash his face could be contaminated with another person’s toilet remains just as he has done? And who is he expecting to collect what he had left behind, the fishes or ……?

This has been the practice of people living in most fishing communities especially around Korle Gonno, Mamprobi, Teshie, Nungua and its environs among many others marked as the very same people who are often noted to bury their love ones every weekend and also noted to be crowded in hospital facilities with conditions that could have otherwise been avoided.

OPEN DEFECATION

This is a human practice of excreting outside in the open environment such as the forest, open water bodies, bushes, in the fields or gutters popularly referred to as “free-range” rather than the use of a properly built toilet facility.

The latest of this practice is the act of defecating into black rubber bags appropriately tied and dropped into refuse containers or inside open gutters for the rains to sweep away.

This age-old practice which has been blamed on poverty and absence of government support in providing toilet facilities, poses serious health threat to the continent, Ghana to be specific and the world at large.

In Ghana, most houses along the sea-shore are built without a plan for a place of convenience even though the assembly by-laws do not accept such practices.

According to research findings, this has been the practice adopted by people to create more room or space for residential purposes and make money through rent, hence preferred the use of public toilets provided by government.

The argument raised on this issue is that, private toilet is expensive to keep particularly evacuating the waste when the cesspit tank is occupied. This, evidently comes with a lot of cost, making the use of public toilet facilities more convenient and ideal as the burden of evacuation solely lies on government.

Ghana has been ranked second after Sudan in Africa for open defecation, with almost 5 million Ghanaians not having access to any toilet facility. The number of people practicing open defecation in Ghana was reported at 18.75% in 2015. This refers to the percentage of the population defecating in the open, such as in fields, forests, bushes, open bodies of water, on beaches, and in other open spaces and those who dispose human excreta with solid waste.

The practice is most prevalent in the rural poor areas who are compelled to cope without any form of latrine. The worrying aspect of this practice is that, children are the leading culprits, particularly because toilet facilities are usually not designed to meet their needs thus at age zero, they learn to defecate on the floor etc. How then, can you stop an attitude nurtured from childhood?

INTERVENTIONS

Governments across the world, have ganged up against the practice of open defecation and have tried several ways to discourage people from the practice which over the years have subsided, owing to the awareness creation on the dangers associated with the practice.

The media, especially multi media has dedicated it channels to fight the menace through visitations of facilities and uncovering wrong insanitary practices. A move helpful in deterring people from engaging in such practices or otherwise face the embarrassment of being exposed on television and its punishment thereof.

Around the World, 673 million people practice open defecation, down from about 892 million people which forms 12 percent of the global population in the act of practicing open defecation in 2016.

Currently, with global interventions like the world toilet day, celebrated every 19th November, aimed at inspiring action to tackle global sanitation crisis and help achieve targets of the Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6), which promises sanitation for all by 2030.

HEALTH IMPLICATIONS

open defecation continues to be a critical health challenge globally, affecting almost 1 billion people worldwide and contributing significantly to an estimated 842,000 people dying yearly from preventable sanitation-related diseases.

The existence of open defecation is associated with diseases, under nutrition and poverty, and is usually considered as an affront to personal dignity.

Those countries where open defecation is most widely practiced have the highest number of deaths of children under age five, as well as high levels of under nutrition, high levels of poverty, and large disparities between the rich and poor.

Our medical professionals especially our doctors are compelled to be treating Malaria and Cholera every day in the consulting room for hours, while other colleague doctors from other countries are adding value to their medical skills, such as swimming as in the case of the Thai trapped kids. Others are engaged in varied improved health practices while our attitudes confine our doctors in the consulting room treating needless health cases.

CONCLUSION

It is crucial to keep an eagle-eye on the menace in this time of Ebola and Covet-19 viruses to save our generation from what is lethal and damaging than what we see in China et al.

Columnist: Mabel Delassie Awuku

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