It will take Ghana 500 years to bring an end to ‘free ranging’ or open defecation, UNICEF’s Country Director of Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene, David Duncan, has said.
An estimated 1.1 billion people in developing countries, including Ghana, ease themselves outdoors, though the practice is considered the greatest danger to human health.
Speaking at a two-day capacity building programme for the parliamentary press corps organised by UNICEF, Mr Duncan said one in every five Ghanaians uses Ghana as a toilet and called for an urgent response by governments to eradicate the practice.
“Under the past year, headlines have talked of Ghana as the seventh dirtiest country in the world and then we are going backwards compared with other countries,” he stated.
“We were confronted with the fact that one in five Ghanaians uses Ghana as a toilet – defecating daily in the bush, on the beach and in drains.
“The rest of the world is improving dramatically, [but] we seem to be standing still. Under the past 25 years in Ghana, improvement was so slow that if we maintain this rate, it will take Ghana 500 years to be free from open defecation.
“In 15 years, between now and 2030, we need to support over five million Ghanaians to stop defecating in the open, but currently it looks like it will take 500 years unless we make changes now.”
Meanwhile, the Central Regional Minister, Kweku Ricketts Hagan, attributed the menace to attitudes rather than a lack of government attention in solving the problem.
“We are providing the facilities, building new toilets and all that in all communities, but at the end of the day, it is also going to depend on our own behaviour and attitude, because there are places where you have the toilets, but the people are not using it,” he explained.
He called for education and awareness creation to fight the menace.
Mr Hagan added: “So, behaviour and attitudinal change is what we require. … So, we must educate our people, we must create awareness, especially here in the Central Region, Cape Coast in particular, where we are known as a tourist destination. We do not want our tourists coming here and directing their cameras towards people defecating in the open at the beaches rather than zooming the camera on the forts and castles that we have here.”