By William A. Asiedu
When nature calls, we need a toilet. And we need a decent and safe one to attend to the call comfortably.
“Me ko twa me’to,” that’s the Akan response when the call comes. Literally it translates; “I am going to cut my buttocks,” which in fact means “I am going to attend to the call of nature”.
Sadly, billions of people around the world, including Ghana do not have decent and safe places of convenience (toilets). Indeed, many people defecate in the open on a daily basis. This means that human faeces, on a massive scale, are not being captured or treated thus contaminating the water and soil that sustain human life.
This also means that we are turning our environment into an open sewer, which is a huge threat to health and sanitation. However, when nature calls we have to listen and act and therefore we must build toilets and sanitation systems that work in harmony with ecosystems.
This is why World Toilet Day, which is celebrated on November 19 is very important as the day promotes nature-based solutions to our sanitation needs.
As we celebrate the day, we need to take action to ensure that everyone has access to a safe toilet. This is part of the Sustainable Development Goals 6 (Sanitation and Water).
Information available on www.worldtoiletday.info/unwater indicates that about 65 % of the world’s population has no access to safe sanitation, and close to 892 million people engage in open defecation.
It is also estimated that 1.8 billion people use water sources that could be contaminated with faeces and a whopping 4.5 billion people, that is about half of the world’s population, live without safe toilets.
It is quite discouraging to note that not much has been said or heard about the World Toilet Day celebration in Ghana today though many people around the country still engage in open defection.
One expected the various assemblies, which are charged with the responsibility to enforce laws that enjoin all landlords/ladies to provide toilet facilities in their homes and other facilities, to hold media events/programmes to sensitise the public to the importance of sanitation, especially safe and decent toilet culture, but unfortunately very little has been done today in that respect.
It is not too late. Tomorrow is another day. Let us resolve to motivate and mobilise millions around the country to get involved in the global efforts to promote good sanitation.
Ghana is trying to make an impact in its fight against insanitary conditions around the country, especially in parts of the major cities of Accra and Kumasi. Indeed, authorities in those cities claim to have made significant gains in ensuring that most households in the cities have toilets facilities.
But, checks reveal that several communities still lack basic toilet facilities both for domestic and public use.
In various parts of the country, many residents still engage in open defection in gutters, refuse dumps, along the beaches and in bushes.
Dangerously, some of these gutters and dump sites are close to places where food is sold. This cannot continue!
To check the unfortunate situation, the various assemblies must be well resourced to fire up their education campaigns against open defecation and also be encouraged to be more aggressive in prosecuting landlords/ladies who fail to provide decent toilets in their homes and facilities to serve as deterrent to others.
The Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) has instituted an award for the Best Journalist in Sanitation and Hygiene but beyond that the association should use its influence to urge its individual and corporate members to do more to keep issues of sanitation on the front burners of the national discourse, because we need good health to create great wealth to lift our people from abject poverty and preventable hardship.
The World Toilet Day was originally established by the World Toilet Organisation in 2001 to draw attention to global sanitation issues. Since 2001, World Toilet Day has grown in scope and recognition by global partners.
In 2013, the United Nations (UN) passed a resolution to recognise World Toilet Day as an official UN international day (UN Resolution A/67/L.75).
The writer is a recipient of the GJA Hygiene and Sanitation Award, Managing Editor of the Daily Heritage newspaper, and President of the Arts and Tourism Writers Association of Ghana (ATWAG)