Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Mion District commits to stop open defecation by August 31, 2013

UNICEF Ghana has congratulated the Mion District Assembly members for signing a pledge to become an open defecation free district by August 31 this year– a crucial step towards the whole Northern Region stopping defecation in the open. 

Mion’s public commitment recently was led by District Chief Executive Dan Mankandan, who urged assembly members to transform Mion into the first open defecation free district in the country.

'Open defecation' (also referred to as 'free range' by some communities) is the practice of using open spaces, rather than toilets for defecation. 'Open defecation free' means that the practice has been stopped and everyone is now using toilets.

“Open defecation contaminates water sources and spreads diarrhoea - one of the leading causes of death of children in Ghana, accounting for 4000 deaths of children under five every year,” UNICEF Acting Representative Sarah Hague said.

Ms Hague encouraged more districts to follow Mion’s example and publicly commit to fast-track community-led total sanitation.

Mion District’s commitment comes after the founder of the Community-Led Total Sanitation Foundation Kamal Kar met with all District Chief Executives in the Northern Region in May. Dr Kar urged District Assemblies to improve the health of their people through supporting community-led total sanitation, where communities come up with their own solutions to stop open defecation. 

According to the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, led by UNICEF and Ghana Statistical Service, 72% of people in the Northern Region defecate outside - more than three times higher than the national average of 23%. Only 5% of households in the Northern Region have their own toilet.

On June 20, all the 27 Mion District Assembly Members present at the Assembly’s meeting signed a commitment that every community in each of their area councils would stop defecating outside in just over two months. 

This signed pledge follows a meeting between the District Assembly and Development Partners in the Northern Region on June 11 organised by the Regional Co-ordinating Council, under the leadership of the Regional Minister Mr. A. Bede-Ziedeng. 

In the Development Partner’s meeting, the District Chief Executive, with the support from his District Assembly, committed to leading the race to become an open defecation free district and help build an open defecation free Northern Region. Eighteen out of Mion’s 145 communities are already open defecation free. 

The Acting Regional Environmental Health Director Martha Tia-Adjei is confident that the district’s bold commitment could become a reality, with the support of Assembly Members, development partners, religious leaders, chiefs, opinion leaders and the media.

“We are passionate because we know this district can do it. These District Assembly Members are champions for their communities and the people they are here to represent. The Regional Co-ordinating Council is giving them all their support,” Ms Tia-Adjei said.

UNICEF works in more than 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

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