Between 26-28 February, the ensemble made stops at schools and villages in Gburimani and Yepeligu in the Tolon-Kumbungu District, and in Dawuni’s home village of Bunbon Nayili in the Yendi District. They also joined the Regional Minister, Alhaji Mustapha Ali Idris, and the Tamale Chief Executive Officer in a clean-up campaign in Tamale. The trip was coordinated by the Environmental Health and Sanitation Directorate, Ghana Health Service and the NGO Africa Live!, with support from UNICEF.
The star-studded group included local artistes Sheriff Ghale, rising talent Abu Sadic and female singer Ramatu Ibrahim (Mama Rams). In each community they visited, the musicians witnessed and were briefed on major water, sanitation and hygiene challenges that cause disease and death, particularly among children.
Community members in both Tolon and Yendi complained of a shortage of clean drinking water, relying instead on unsafe water fetched from far-away dams. They also lack basic sanitary facilities such as household latrines and hygienic waste water disposal facilities. Children are usually the first to get sick and die from the diseases that spread as a result, including typhoid, cholera and diarrhoea. Guinea worm is a debilitating disease that causes children unbearable pain and keeps them out of school for long periods of time.
Through word and song, the musicians appealed to chiefs, elders and community members to practice key preventive steps: to boil or filter their water before consuming it, wash their hands with running water and soap at critical times (before and after eating/handling food, using the toilet or cleaning a child), to eat clean food and keep their villages clean.
“This is not a civic responsibility. It is my destiny,” Dawuni said, speaking to community members in Tolon. “I came here as a child of the North – as a servant of the North – to open up a dialogue about the problems you are having with water and sanitation. I cannot provide a magic solution, but I can shine some light on the issues. I can remind you how important it is, especially for the health of your children, to always drink water that is clean and uncontaminated.”
Dawuni initiated the idea for the trip to the Northern Region, as he prepared for the 7th Annual Rocky Dawuni Independence Splash (6 March at La Pleasure Beach). This year, Dawuni felt compelled to go beyond the usual fun and fanfare of the concert, to help his home country tackle some of the major issues impeding Ghana’s development.
Across Ghana, water- and sanitation-related diseases take a heavy toll on children. Diarrhoea is responsible for 18 per cent of under-five childhood deaths in Ghana – over 14,000 children whose lives could be saved by simple preventive steps, such as washing hands with soap. Ghana is now the second-most Guinea worm endemic country in the world, next only to war-torn Sudan. In rural areas, only 11 per cent of the population use hygienic sanitation facilities, and only 64 per cent have access to safe drinking water.
UNICEF and other development partners, in collaboration with the Government of Ghana, have made a number of interventions in some of the most underserved communities throughout northern Ghana, which face particularly difficult water and sanitation challenges.
These efforts include the installation and repair of boreholes and other systems to provide safe water supply, provision of latrines and hand washing facilities and the training of community health workers in hygiene promotion and in the early detection, treatment and reporting of Guinea worm cases. To bolster these interventions, hygiene and sanitation education aimed at changing behaviour is continuously undertaken in affected schools and communities.
“Healthy people make a wealthy nation,” said Dawuni. “Any selfless service we render to them we also render to ourselves.”
UNICEF is on the ground in 155 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.
For further information, please contact:
Allison Hickling, UNICEF Ghana, 024.433.4996, email@example.com