Ghana continues to rank 2nd in open defecation in Africa. Ghana only trails the world’s newest country – one that was ravaged for decades by civil war - South Sudan.
When 19% of the population must resort to what has been deemed an unsafe sanitation practice to get rid of human waste, there’s a problem. To further highlight this problem, proper sanitation coverage for Ghana sits at only 15%.
So, what are people to do when nature calls? They’re heading to a beach, a bush or wherever they can to do what most of us in the West can’t even imagine doing in the 21st century.
It’s a global problem
While South Sudan and Ghana hold the top spots in Africa, globally open defecation is a huge issue that needs to be addressed. India tops the list worldwide for people that relieve themselves in public.
But this harsh reality for many has consequences, including outcomes that can be fatal.
Sickness and death
Using a bush or a beach as your toilet, means you probably can’t wash your hands right after defecating or urinating, which can lead to illness.
Unwashed hands can increase the chances of spreading illnesses like typhoid, diarrhea and cholera.
Outbreaks of cholera in Ghana are intermittent with the most recent taking place late last year and into early 2017.
Toward the end of November in 2016 there were 500 cases of cholera reported with no deaths. However, a previous outbreak between 2014 and 2015 resulted in close to 30,000 cases and over 250 deaths.
How to help solve the problem?
Access to toilets and clean water are two major ways to end open defecation. Keeping garbage, fecal matter and urine out of water ways is another way to stem the tide that is cholera and potentially stop it in its tracks.
UNICEF’s Chief of the WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) office in Ghana, David Duncan, says the only way open defecation can be stopped is for every household to have a toilet.
That is a great goal, but still difficult when one considers the fact that at least half of Ghana’s urban dwellers live in informal housing. The result is limited access to safe water systems and sanitation services that include toilets.
As organisations like the Love Africa Project work to flip the script in Ghana, only time will tell Ghana continues to the top of the open defecation list or makes its way back down. The Love Africa Project is committed to Ghana not being on the list Open Defecation Countries (ODC) at all.