By Cynthia Prah |
Several communities in Northern Ghana are pronounced flood prone, owing mainly to the low-lying nature of the area. Floods in this part of the country are perennial thereby increasing the vulnerability of the people in the area to infections, illness, loss of livelihoods, lack of farmlands and school closures.
Besides, access to poor water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services pose yet another key public health challenge for flood prone areas in Northern Ghana. With only about 10% of the population said to use improved sanitation facilities, and high cases of open defecation, the situation is worrisome. For the people, “issues of water and sanitation can be life threatening, especially when disaster occurs” says the Country Representative of the UNFPA, Mr. Niyi Ojuolape. Further buttressing the seriousness of the situation, Dr. Eric Moukoro, the Programme Manager, UN-Habitat , said “when it floods, the water washes the poor WASH facilities into the streams, rivers and un-elevated and poorly built hand-dug wells thereby contaminating the very source of their drinking water”, a situation that makes the people in the North susceptible to several health hazards.
To address this daunting poor sanitation menace, and support the people to build resilient WASH facilities that can prevent vulnerability to natural disaster in the area, the United Nations in Ghana, represented by four agencies, namely, UN-Habitat, UNICEF, UNDP and WHO implemented the UN Water and Sanitation in Disaster Prone Communities Programme, (WASH in DPC) targeting 265 disaster prone communities in Northern Ghana. Through the programme, approximately 300,000 people in these communities, schools and healthcare facilities have received resilient water and sanitation infrastructure and thereby allowing for their social inclusion and universal access to water and sanitation and other essential services related to disaster management with early warning mechanisms by communities and Government bodies, including the National Disaster Management Organization (NADMO). The 3-year programme was funded by Global Affairs (GAC), an endorsement of Canada’s aspiration “to foster an inclusive society where everyone’s needs are met” says Mr. Eric Chimsi, Development Officer at the Canadian High Commission.
Recently, to officially close the WASH in DPC programme, the UN and implementing partners toured some beneficiary communities in the North to appreciate the extent of work and the impact of the facilities and services provided by the programme. They also interacted with some residents, many of whom say the easy access to reliable water has made their lives easier and less stressful.
Adisa Abdul Rhaman, a 28-year old mother of five says “I no longer rush home from work only to travel another distance to fetch water at the end of each day”. Beaming with smiles, Palabe Dorcas Kolan told us “Gone are the days when we used to fight at the stream over water. These days, we do not fight. All you have to do is bring your bucket to the water station, pay a little amount and fetch”.
In Ward K, the UN and partners handed over two water stations and hand washing facilities to the people at a brief ceremony. They would serve the community and be fit for purpose in times of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is pleasing to note the inclusion of COVID-19 protocol behavioral change communication in the programme” says Mr. Chimsi. He further identified the strong coordination effort between the UN and implementing partners including the Government of Ghana which was significant for the successful implementation of the programme. He advised that lessons learnt from the implementation of the WASH in DPC should inform future WASH interventions. Mr. Chimsi noted that the facility management system needs to be formalized to ensure the project is sustainable.
Prior to the field visit, the UN team and partners met in the Northern regional capital, Tamale to reflect on the achievements made from the implementation of the Joint WASH in DPC programme. The meeting brought together representatives of the GAC, the UN in Ghana, Civil Society Organisations and government officials from the regional levels.
According to the Regional Environmental Health Director of the Savannah Region, Alhaji Adam Wahab, the WASH in DPC programme has imparted a lot of people and has heightened people’s understanding of the occurrence of flood and how to prepare for it even at the individual family level. He explained that the Region has also benefited a lot from the programme in terms of the training received to be able to provide technical backstopping for ensuring the construction of WASH facilities that are resilient and can stand the test of time.