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Ghana celebrates World Toilet Day

© UNICEFGhana/2011/Quarmyne
Community members in Gbandu in the Northern Region outside one of the latrines built by community members.

ACCRA, November 19, 2013 - For the first time since its inception in 2001, World Toilet Day (WTD) would now be commemorated by the 139 member states of the United Nations with the theme: "The Rural Meet the Urban Sanitation".

This was after a unanimous decision was made by the United Nations 67th General Assembly held on July 24, 2013 to endorse the day as an event worth commemorating. Following that landmark decision November 19 was declared as World Toilet Day on Wednesday, July 25, 2013. Ghana will commemorate the day with a forum at the Holy Spirit Cathedral in Accra.

“Ending open defecation will lead to a 35 per cent reduction in diarrhoea, which results in over 750,000 deaths of children under five years of age every year,” Singapore’s representative, Diplomat Mark Neo said as he tabled a draft resolution on Sanitation for All, one of four adopted by consensus at the meeting.

According to the U.N. while six billion people in the world (out of a total population of 7 billion) have access to a mobile phone, only 4.5 billion people have access to improve toilets or latrines, leaving 2.5 billion who do not have access. It estimates that if everyone in the world had access to a toilet, the lives of 200,000 children could be saved each year.

The purpose of World Toilet Day is to raise awareness about the lack of sanitation in parts of the world (especially in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia where access to improved sanitation is very low), and to encourage the policies that increase sanitation access among the poor.

"This new annual observance will go a long way toward raising awareness about the need for all human beings to have access to sanitation," U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson  said .

Access to improved sanitation  is one of eight targets of the  Millennium Development Goals adopted by the U.N.," a blueprint of global aims agreed to by all member nations.

"Despite progress toward the Millennium Development Goals, one in three people do not have a basic toilet," Eliasson said. "Almost 2,000 children die every day from preventable diarrhoeal diseases. Poor sanitation and water supply result in economic losses estimated at $260 billion annually in developing countries."

It is estimated that at any given moment, half of the developing world’s people are sick from diseases associated with dirty water and bad sanitation. The health systems, as well as individuals, are paying a high price.

“As the world turns its attention on the lack of sanitation and its repercussions, it’s worth noting  that access to a toilet ensures ones dignity, but more than that it is unacceptable that so many children in Ghana die needlessly from diarrhoel diseases which is attributed directly to poor sanitation, hygiene and water supply” said UNICEF Ghana Representative, Susan Ngongi.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), if everyone had access to safe sanitation and water, the world’s health sectors would save around $12 billion per year. Families would save a lot of income, time and energy if they did not have to deal on a regular basis with sick family members.

Proper sanitation facilities are also instrumental for women and girls during menstruation, who need space for washing and somewhere to dispose of sanitary pads. Especially for adolescent girls, a clean and private toilet impacts their school performance. However, menstruation and its management remain far too often hidden in a culture of silence.

In Ghana, approximately 13,900 adults and 5,100 children below the age of 5 years die through diarrhoea every year-nearly 90% of which is directly attributed to poor water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). Ghana losses US$ 290 million (about GH¢580 million) every year due to poor sanitation, while open defecation costs the country GH¢79 million every year.

According to the 2011 Multi Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS), 23 out of every 100 Ghanaians practice open defecation on a daily basis, which represents over 5.7 million people.

Sanitation is a Human Right
As many as 1.1 billion people around the world practice open defecation with the majority of them living in rural areas. These people have no private place to defecate and urinate; they use fields and bushes, ditches or railway tracks, or simply a plastic bag. For them, sanitation is about dignity and ultimately human rights.

In 2010, the UN General Assembly recognised sanitation and water as a human right, essential to the full enjoyment of life and all other human rights. This break through decision constitutes an important step towards turning these rights into a reality for everyone.

Sanitation is a good economic investment
It is estimated that every dollar (about GH¢ 2) invested in sanitation yields a return of five dollars (GH¢ 10). Sanitation is a good use of money, and essential for both social and economic development. Actually, toilets are one of the best investments a country can make.
Sanitation, whether in the literal context of reusing human waste, or in a broader development context has a positive economic value.

Editor’s Note
Commemoration of World Toilet Day is in its 12th year but the first time it is being marked under the UN umbrella. Ghana began marking the day in 2009. This year’s commemoration will bring together government institutions, the private sector, NGOs, Development Partners, children and youth of Ghana to discuss and build consensus on issues of sanitation  in Ghana. 

The World Toilet Day forum in Ghana is being organised by the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD) in colaboration and  partnership with UNICEF, the Ghana Education Service under the Ministry of Education, the Coalition of NGOs in Water and Sanitation (CONIWAS), Resource Centre Network (RCN) and others. 

For further enquires and interviews you may contact Mr Lenason Naa Demedeme or Mr Benjamin Arthur on 0244220564 and 0240210584 respectively. 



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