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President Mahama Tackles Sanitation – That’s Great News: But Private sector Has To Get Involved

Ghanaians throughout the country came out in their numbers to participate in the maiden edition of the National Sanitation Day that was marked last Saturday. The President, Mr. John Dramani Mahama; the Vice-President, Mr. Kwesi Bekoe Amissah-Arthur, political leaders, as well as traditional leaders, including the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu ll, Local Government Minister Mr. Julius Debrah and other prominent individuals, joined residents of cities, towns and villages to embark on the exercise – That’s great.

Sanitation plays a key role in the development of a nation. It extends beyond the cleanliness to warding off environmental related disease such as malaria, cholera, dysentery and the like and can promote good health and sound mind for economic development.

The recent Cholera outbreak which recorded about 22,000 cases and resulted in about 174 deaths was the worse since 1982 according to the Ghana Health Service. That unfortunate situation painted a dire picture of sanitation in Ghana and reinforced the position of the unattainable Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of halving the proportion of people without basic sanitation by 2015. Approximately 19,000 Ghanaians including 5,100 children under the age five die each year from diarrhea; 90% of the cases are directly related to poor water, sanitation and hygiene. Furthermore, 4.8 million people have no latrines therefore defecate in the open with attendant diseases that cost us $79 million annually[1]

 In the light of the above, we cannot over emphasise the importance of the National Sanitation Day which will be marked on the first Saturday of every month with nationwide cleanup exercises. However the National Sanitation Day initiative would not yield the needed results if the citizenry do not take absolute responsibility for ensuring a clean environment. In the eyes of the public, sanitation management and control is the sole responsibility of the central government. This notion was dispelled by President Mahama when he said on Sanitation Day “Sanitation is a public good and its impact affects everybody irrespective of one’s ethnic, political, religious or geographical background. What this means is that it is our collective responsibility as Ghanaians to take the needed measures to ensure that we live in a clean, safe and healthy environment”.

 Sadly, after the much patronised sanitation exercise, there remains on the side of streets significant filth from choked drains and household garbage. The reason is not farfetched. There are less waste bins for the collection of the waste.   To sustain this nationwide cleanup effort instituted by the Government, there is the need for a nationwide supply of waste collection bins, to ensure that waste is properly managed after such exercises.

It is important to mention that waste management is no simple business. The waste management value chain is such that the treatment plants and landfill sites are crucial, because without these there is no point collecting the waste in the first place.  The technology and equipment to manage waste in a clean and efficient manner are highly capital intensive as they must run 24 hours every day. Yet government has no plans for dedicated investment into these important amenities. There are but a few significant private sector players who are making efforts to tame the waste menace on a shoe string budget as they receive virtually no support from the Government.

President John Mahama and some Gvt Officials in Action.
President John Mahama and some Gvt Officials in Action. Copyright @ Myjoyonline.com

The sanitation sector in Ghana is indeed plagued with a lot of challenges, inadequate financing being the biggest of them. Sadly, the sector is highly dependent on donor support and the internal support is substantially very low which sends the signal that the country rests on its heels in carrying out an effective management of the sanitation problems.

 Let us see how. For the implementation of various water and sanitation projects, the 2014 budget announced that “an amount of GH¢531,389,023 has been allocated.” The budget also gave the breakdown as GH¢89,718,844 coming from Government of Ghana (GOG), GH¢6,023,120 as Internally Generated Funds (IGF) from sector agencies, and a whopping GH¢435,647,058 as the contribution of Donor Partners (DPs). The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD) which is charged with the responsibility of policy planning, design and formulation on sanitation for the implementation by the various Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) in the country. All the activities of the assemblies are tied to the District Assembly Common Fund (DACF) which is characterized by delay in release of funds and the insufficient nature of the sanitation budget contribute significantly to the problem of the sanitation sector. Additionally, the poor co-ordination between the sanitation outfit in the assembly and waste management companies, and the weak governance system in the assemblies also contribute to the reasons for our poor management in sanitation

 In 2012, a World Bank report estimated that Ghana loses $290 million annually due to poor sanitation. Our bad sanitation definitely impacts other sectors of our economy such as the tourism industry. Our service sector which includes tourism constituted 49.5% of our GDP in 2013[2]. For a country that generates part of its revenues from tourism, cleanliness should be among our priorities to enable us sustain the revenues generated

 The way forward in facing the poor sanitation should include the following

  • Allocation of Higher Investments to sanitation. Current sanitation investment in Ghana is the less than 0.1% GDP[3]which is lower than several estimates for what is required. Increased investments in sanitation are required not only to realize the health and welfare benefits of sanitation but also avert the large economic losses. Considering the significant role sanitation plays in the lives of people as well as its possible health implications it is  crucial that GOG creates a special sanitation fund (more like the GETfund) for long term investment in the sector.


  •  Institution of an effective governance system that indicate clear roles, responsibilities and targets to be achieved.
  • The assemblies must be proactive in identifying economic opportunities in their jurisdiction to raise funds for their activities especially sanitation, other than the relying heavily on central government and donor support.
  • Increase in private sector investment in waste management and sanitation in addition to government efforts to encourage private sector participation.
  • The cleanliness of our country should be a priority of all. Our by-laws on sanitation appear lax; it is about time we enforced them by instituting reward systems and punishment for both sanitation staff and communities to ensure citizens contribute in keeping our nation clean.
  • The National Sanitation Day should not be a one-day-show; it must be sustained until poor sanitation becomes a thing of the past. Just as our local textile industry has received a boost through the National Friday Wear campaign as launched by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Presidential Special Initiative in 2004, so should we sustain this initiative in a more creative and engaging way.

[1]Economic Impacts of Poor Sanitation in Africa, UNDP-Water & Sanitation Program Report  March,2012

 [2] http://www.statsghana.gov.gh/docfiles/GDP/GDP_2014.pdf

[3] In country e Thekwini monitoring, 2011


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