Today is World Toilet Day, and as the world celebrates, the Northern Regional Coordinating Council (RCC) is committed to ending Open Defecation in the region by the year 2019.
World Toilet Day is an official United Nations international observance day designated for the 19th of November to inspire action to tackle the global sanitation crisis. Sanitation is essential to the development of every society. Currently, there are 2.4 billion people worldwide, who do not use improved sanitation; 946 million people defecate in the open. That is one in seven people, according to UNICEF 2017 reports.
In Ghana, 22 percent of people defecate in the open as of the year 2000. In 2015, the number fell to 19 percent according to the 2017 Joint Monitoring Project (JMP) reports. At this slow rate it would have taken Ghana 95 years to eliminate open defecation.
According to the Ghana Health Service (GHS) 2016 Annual Report, the top four diseases in the year 2016 showed malaria leading the pack, followed by upper respiratory tract infections, rheumatism, and diarrheoa. There were 1.5 million diarrheoa cases reported. The same reports indicate that on average, 80 percent of OPD attendance depended on health insurance.
However, speaking at the World Toilet Day ceremony, the northern regional Environmental Health and Sanitation Director, Mr. Rek Japka Mumuni stated that with the support of donor partners and all stakeholders, the picture is changing in the northern region in the past two years.
He said as of June 2016, only 5 percent of the communities in the northern region were open defecation free. Today, in less than two years, about 25 percent of the total number of communities in the region are open defecation free according to the Regional Health Unit’s data.
He said: "This shows that with all hands on deck and commitment, the open defecation menace can be eliminated from the northern region and by extension from Ghana, within the shortest possible time. One of the biggest challenges to ending open defecation is not just providing clean and safe toilets, but changing the behaviour of entire communities."
A speech read behalf of the Northern Regional Minister, Mr. Salifu Saeed by the District Chief Executive (DCE) for Sagnarigu, Mrs. Mariam Iddrisu, challenged MMDAs to submit to him by the end of January 2018, their strategic open defecation plans for eradicating open defecation by December 2019 to facilitate the attainment of the national target.
The northern region, she said, has a fair responsibility for the sanitation situation in the country being the region with second highest rate of open defecation, at 68 percent practice open defecation, according to a 2014 department of health service report.
A regional health promoter, Mr. Yakubu Rahinatu, who spoke on behalf of the northern regional health director called for attitudinal change from individuals. The program climaxed with a drama by the Centre for National Culture depicting the dangers of open defecation. Some district environmental officers were presented with citations for their hard work towards eradicating open defecation in the region.
BY: LILIAN D.WALTER