Ghana is seriously off-track on sanitation services and will need more than 200 years to achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goal (MDG) on sanitation, while the whole of sub-Saharan Africa will need on the average, 198 years if current trend of progress continues, according to the 2010 WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) report on sanitation and drinking water.
The report, which was launched in March – a month before the first ever high level meeting on water and sanitation – estimates that only 13 out of every 100 Ghanaians (13%) have access to improved sanitation; while on average, 31 out of every hundred people in sub-Saharan Africa have access to improved sanitation.
For Ghana, the JMP reports that coverage has improved from 7% in 1990 when the population was approximately 15 million to 13% in 2008 when the population increased to about 23 million. Urban access to improved sanitation has risen from 11-18% while rural access to improved sanitation has gone up from 4% to 7% over the same period.
The global objective is to secure access to improved sanitation (defined as decent household toilets) for 64 out of every hundred people (64%) by 2015. Coverage in sub-Saharan Africa is currently 31%, representing a three percent improvement over 1990 levels of 28%. The majority of the region’s people – 567 million – still do no have access to improved sanitation.
The increase, according to analysts, represents an annual average improvement of 0.17% since 1990. Granted that the trend continues, the earliest time the sub-Saharan African region will reach the MDG target will be the year 2206.
The JMP compiled the report using a database that “includes 729 nationally representative household surveys and 152 Censuses. Almost all of these come from developing regions and to a lesser extent from the Commonwealth of Independent States.” Also, the JMP used 318 administratively reported data for developed countries. To capture the concept of access as a measurable indicator, JMP monitors progress to the MDG target on the basis of estimates of the proportion of the population using an improved drinking-water source and an improved sanitation facility, respectively.
MDG Target 7c calls on countries to halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking-water and basic sanitation; and sets the proportion of people in 1990 without access to safe drinking-water and basic sanitation as the baseline to be halved by 2015. Therefore, the 2010 report provides detailed estimates of progress towards the MDG and breaks down figures for access to sanitation and water by country, region and rural/urban.
The report says the global community is seriously off-track on sanitation and if current rates continue, the goal will be met 30 years too late – that’s a billion people too late. Presently, 2.6 billion people are still without access to safe and hygienic toilet facilities.
The JMP defines improved sanitation in terms of access to decent household toilets. According to the JMP, an improved sanitation facility is one that hygienically separates human excreta from human contact.
Thus, for a facility to pass as an improved sanitation facility, it must be one of the following: a flush or pour-flush toilet that is piped to sewer system, septic tank or pit latrine; a Ventilated improved Pit (ViP) latrine; a Pit latrine with slab; or a Composting toilet.
Conversely, the following are considered unimproved: a Flush or pour-flush to elsewhere (that is, not to piped sewer system, septic tank or pit latrine); a Pit latrine without slab/open pit; Bucket; Hanging toilet or hanging latrine; shared facilities of any type; or no facilities, bush or field.
According to the report, the fastest increases in access to sanitation have been in North Africa and South East Asia; 72% of the 2.6bn people without sanitation live in Asia; 4 in 10 people who gained access to sanitation between 1990-2008 live in China and India; 7 out of 10 people without sanitation live in rural areas; Improvements in urban sanitation are being overtaken by massive urban migration and population growth; and the poorest quintile is 16 times more likely than the richest quintile to practice open defecation
Reactions from local civil society and providers of water and sanitation services suggest the JMP report is not a fair reflection of the Ghanaian situation. Patrick Apoya, former Executive Secretary of CONIWAS, was dissatisfied that the JMP does not consider shared toilet facilities as improved. For him, this meant that even though a fair number of compound houses have decent toilet facilities, the JMP discounted these because “they are shared.”
Dr. Ing. Philip Gyau-Boakye, former chief executive of the Community Water and Sanitation Agency, was on the same wavelength with Mr Apoya. He told Public Agenda that Ghana wants the definition changed. If that is done, Ghana can meet the target within time. But Mr Emmanuel Addae, Communications Specialist, Water and Sanitation Monitoring Platform (WSMP), said since improved sanitation facilities and drinking-water sources can vary widely within and among countries and regions, and because JMP is mandated to report at global level and across time, it has adopted a globally accepted definition which may differ from national level definitions.
He said, “No country can be compelled” to go by the internationally agreed definition but those are the basis for comparing and measuring progress made among countries and regions.
Source: Frederick Asiamah, Public Agenda. / allAfrica.com, 19 April 2010