Kwaku, a 21 year-old man, born and bred in Obuasi in the Ashanti Region, had lived all his life in one of the luxurious mining bungalows.
After obtaining a Diploma in Information Technology at the Koforidua Polytechnic, he decided he would stay with a relative in Accra to seek a job and probably greener pastures. Kwaku was lucky to have a cousin staying at Akweteman, a suburb of Accra, so his dream to come and stay in Accra really did materialize.
It was one room, probably a boy’s quarters to the main building, with about 10 different families living in the house. On the compound of the house was a cemented structure with four sides used as a bathroom, which all the 10 families used. Even those who were not tenants in the house sometimes came and bathed there. To his surprise, he realized that there was no toilet in the house, the reason being that the toilet was full and nobody was prepared to pay for it to be emptied, so the landlady broke down the place.
Very early in the morning, Kwaku would walk from Akweteman to the main Achimota Market where a public toilet was situated. He had to be in a queue for hours to empty his bowels. And this wasn’t for free, as a patron of the public toilet would have to buy toilet roll or newspaper to clean himself. When you get the chance to enter the toilet, only half of the problem is solved. Kwaku says, “There are faeces on some toilet seats and on the floor and one has to employ special acrobatics to empty your bowels.”
Kwaku’s situation makes real the celebration of World Toilet Day, a day set aside by the World Toilet Organization of the United Nations to highlight the need for all households in the world to have access to hygienic toilets and to critically consider various sanitation issues. This year’s celebration, which falls on Friday, 19 November 2010, is on the theme: “Sanitation is Dignity, Hygiene is Health.”
The celebration of World Toilet Day in Ghana was met with mixed feelings. The first time it was announced on a local radio station in Accra some presenters actually made fun of it. To some people it is an unnecessary day to celebrate. However, after hearing Kwaku’s story, the realization that a country should pay attention to toilet issues becomes real.
In Ghana about half of the population is estimated to be using shared toilets or do not have toilets in their homes. Shared toilets refer to a situation where there may be a house with about 10 different families, as in Kwaku’s case, who share the same toilet. There are still some households in Accra, who use the pan latrine, and there are households who do not have water and therefore are not able to flush their toilets.
Many questions are raised when it comes to the issues of sanitation. Some people have raised legitimate concerns like, “What are the processes involved in getting a good toilet in one’s home?” Some have said it is very expensive to get a good or proper toilet in one’s home. “Is it right, for instance, to call on government to help or subsidize the processes involved in owning a toilet?”
Major T. N.K. Awuah (Rtd), Director of Metro Sewage Services, said the Accra Metropolitan Assembly had given a one-year ultimatum to businesses and households in the Metropolis who did not have toilets to put in place toilet facilities at their premises or be prosecuted. “Therefore, households and businesses that do not have toilet facilities come October, 2011 will be prosecuted,” he said.
The African Development Bank under the Accra Sewage Improvement Project (ASIP) is targeting 4,200 households to support them with toilet facilities. Under ASIP, households would be made to apply for a financial facility to enable them to own a toilet in their homes and pay back in monthly instalments so that other people would also benefit from the money which is a revolving fund.
Mr Elvis Afriyie Ankrah, Deputy Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, last year went to Nima, a suburb of Accra, in the early hours of the morning, as they queued to empty their bowels and described the situation as “unacceptable”.
Source: Hannah Asomaning, Web Ghana /Ghana News Agency, 17 November 2010