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N/R: Insane to wash hands when you have no water to drink-Residents bemoan water crisis amidst COVID-19.


Hand washing with soap under running water is among the safety protocols classified by the

World Health Organization as one of the effective ways of keeping of the SARS-COV2 virus which causes Covid-19 at bay.

With vaccine inequalities globally, the safety protocols remain the only options for poor countries like Ghana and many others. However, the lack of water in the Northern region is mitigating against this protocol.

In this report supported by Journalists for Human Rights under the Mobilizing Media to Fighting Covid-19 project, Zaa Radio’s Ibrahim Mohammed examines access to clean water among residents of Tamale and the impact on the prevention of Covid-19 and other hygiene related sicknesses.

“Insensible to use water to wash hands.”

Using clean water to wash hands is now considered “senseless” among some residents of

Tamale. They have argued that “no human’ being in his or her “right sense” will engage in such

act. The reason for this bizarre position is simple, water barely runs through the pipe of many.

For residents who barely have enough clean water to drink, reserving the little drops to quench

their thirst under a weather temperature between 36 and 37 degrees Celsius is more “sensible” than to wash their hands.

While they acknowledge the COVID-19 safety protocols are the surest way for protection, they have no option than but to defy it.

Free water supply.

President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo in his fifth Covid-19 address on 6th

April 2020 announced free water for all citizens as part of measures to cushion citizens from the

economic dip that had rocked countries following the folding up of businesses. The free water

commenced in April and run through to January 2021.

While most peri-urban dwellers in the Northern region rely heavily on dug out as their source of

water supply, the 233,252 people representing 9.4 percent of the region’s population according to

2010 population and housing census in the Tamale Metropolis get their water supply from the

Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) in the region.

Residents recount water crisis.

“I actual don’t know what the problem of NEDCo’s inability to supply adequate power, they

may have to explain to us exactly the situation so that we can plan along’’, Kausada Alhassan, a resident of Choggu Yapalsi said. Mr Sumani Mumuni revealed no drop of water has flown in her tap since the beginning of April 2021 forcing her to purchase water on daily basis.

“We buy a gallon of pipe water 1.50pesewas and if you are physically fit, you have to go around with your drums or gallons to the boreholes and fetch’’, she said.

Erratic power supply.

Intermittent power outages have rocked Ghana in the past two months with no news on when the

situation will normalize. The Northern region has had its fair share of the impact of the situation.

Residents are without pipe borne water as the machines used for production by the Ghana Water

Company heavily relies on electricity.

GWCL responds.

The Regional Communication Manager for Ghana Water Company Limited Mr. Nii Abbey Abbey said the demand has increased amid intermittent power challenges. “The company can only produce 60 % for the distribution to over 800,000 people.”

According to him, the company was supplying  45,000 cubic meters daily in 2010 but that has reduced due to growth in population.

The Ghana Statistical Service has projected northern region population in its 2020 census to be 3,132,417. The annual growth rate 2010-2020 according to GSS is 2.9%/3.1.

Mr. Abbey has encouraged residents to acquire storage facilities so they can harvest rain water in the rainy season.

CONIWAS perspectives.

Northern Zonal Coordinator of the Coalition of Nongovernmental Organizations in Water and Sanitation (CONIWAS), Mr. Ibrahim Abdul Ganiu blamed the failure by successive governments to implement the Tamale water expansion project which according to him has been on the drawing board for almost fifteen (15) years.  

He also apportioned a significant blame to the GWCL, maintaining management should have identified proactive measures considering the increasing population growth.

“My recent engagement with GWCL over the issue revealed that, about forty per cent of the water is thrown away leaving about sixty per cent. Let’s begin observing protocols of respecting buffer zones created to protect water surface.”.

“Why is it that during raining season GWCL is able to supply water to places far away from Tamale metro but unable to do same during dry season’’, Mr Abdul Ganiu quizzed.

CONIWAS as part of its mandate in supporting government in meeting the demand of clean water and sanitation engages key stakeholders on the need to protect water bodies.

The region he explained has a quite a number of dugouts and dams some situated within the communities but wanton sale of lands has led to encroachment of theses dams which could have serve as an alternative.

Drilling of boreholes.

The Member of Parliament for the Tamale Central constituency, Mr. Ibrahim Mutala following

the concerns raised has commenced the drilling of some fifty mechanized boreholes to augment the efforts of government.

Tamale water project.

The alternative to address the growing water crisis in the northern regions remains on the

completion of the Tamale water supply expansion project. The project under a credit facility will cost Ghana US$272,287,980.00.

The GWCL acting on behalf of the Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources of Ghana and

Biwater International Limited of England signed the contract on 17th September, 2019.

This ties in with Government’s agenda of ensuring that, by the year 2030, as enshrined in the

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, all Ghanaians will have access to potable water.

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