Residents of Tamale and Sagnarigu District in the Northern Region of Ghana are increasingly engaging in open defaecation, a phenomenon that has the tendency to compromise public health safety.
The practice is very rampant in areas such as Nyohini, Gumbihini, Warishei, Jakarayili, Jilsonayili, Choggu, Kpalsi, Kalpohin, Koblimahagu, Kukuo, Changli, Duanayili, Bulpiela, Zogbeli, Aboabo, Kanvili, Gumani, Fuo, NVTI, CEPS, Town and Country Planning, Controller and Accountant General, CHRAJ and among others.
Open defaecation is an age-old practice and very common in most communities in Northern Ghana. Roughly, over 80 percent of homes (estimate ours) in the Tamale Metropolis and Sagnarigu District do not have toilet facilities. Even in homes where there are toilet facilities, our checks have revealed that they are broken down whereas some landlords and landladies have converted spaces for such facilities into rooms for rent.
Furthermore, the few public or communal toilet facilities are either broken down, unkempt or far away from homes as some of the residents claimed in an interview with Savannahnews during our investigation.
Mohammed Awal, a resident of Nyohini said “We are far away from the public toilets and there are no toilet facilities in our homes, so we have no option but to use available lands or open spaces around. We are aware of the adverse effects but since there are no alternatives, what do we do”, he asked.
The practice of open defaecation does not only cost Ghana US$79million a year but also poses the greatest danger to human health particularly for the most vulnerable, including children.
The Tamale Metropolis and Sagnarigu District are among twelve districts out of the 26 in the Northern Region to score zero percent in sanitation in the 2015/2016 District League Table (DLT) compiled by CDD-Ghana and UNICEF. The other districts are Bole, West Gonja, Mamprugu-Moagduri, Central Gonja, Bunkpurugu-Yunyoo, Sawla-Tuna-Kalba, West Mamprusi, North-Gonja, Chereponi and Gushiegu.
A few years ago, before the creation of the Sagnarigu District, Tamale was adjudged the ‘cleanest city’ in Ghana by the Ministry of Local Government, Ghana Tourist Authority and Zoomlion Ghana Limited in 2005, 2008 and 2010 respectively. But that cannot be said of the same city in recent times.
For the past few years, residents have been very negligent when it comes to keeping their surroundings clean. Consistently, litterbins placed along most principal streets within the metropolis have been stolen by some unscrupulous persons and converted into domestic waste bins in their homes whereas some use them to fetch water.
According to UNICEF, about 22 million Ghanaians currently do not have access to improved sanitation facilities whereas 5 million are engaged in open defaecation. Also, only about 15 percent of Ghanaians have access to improved water and sanitation while the situation is 5 percent in the three Regions of the North.
Northern Regional Coordinator of Open Defaecation Free Programme, Mr. Shaibu Dauda, told this reporter that about 72 percent of the entire population of the region engage in open defaecation. He added that only 5 percent out of the total population also have toilet facilities in their homes whereas 13 percent are committed to the use of such facilities.
The Assemblyman for Nyohini Electoral Area, Mr. Ibrahim Abdul-Razak Naporow said: “There are only two public toilet facilities in the community which are not enough for a population of over five thousand people. Some people go to the Aboabo Forest Reserve while others take advantage of available Farmlands within the community to attend to natures call”.
Nonetheless, the Tamale Metropolitan Assembly is making efforts to curb the menace of open defaecation, he noted, adding that “The Assembly in collaboration with INTAGRA, a non- governmental organization and HFC Bank have made available a loan facility for interested households or landlords to secure for the construction of their own toilet facilities”.
Ghana was in 2015 ranked second by Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) after Sudan in Africa for open defecation, with 19 percent of its population resorting to that kind of sanitation practice. Within the same year, the World Health Organization also ranked Ghana as 7th dirtiest country in the world.