The lack of potable water in some rural communities in the Upper West Region has compelled women and children in such communities to compete with animals and reptiles for water for their domestic use.
Reports by the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in some of these communities including Damwaataeon and Zanko Paani in the Wa West District and Kaleo-bile in the Wa East District under the “Mobilizing the Media for Fighting covid-19″ project being implemented by the Journalists for Human Rights in collaboration with the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA)”, revealed a very pathetic situation about access to water and other sanitation facilities as a right.
Madam Mercy Dasaa, a resident at Damwaateon, told the GNA that the streams which is their only source of water often dried-up during the harmattan leaving them with no choice than to dig dugouts before they could get water to fetch.
“Sometimes, if you are not lucky, you will dig and fetch some water and the time you will return the next day, animals would have come to drink and destroy it. You will have to dig again to fetch”, she said.
Madam Dasaa said the only borehole in the community could not produce enough water during the dry season to serve the water needs of the community with more than 500 inhabitants.
Madam Agnes Diesob, another resident of the community said the situation impeded their economic activities in the community, as the women had to spend several hours at the stream or borehole in search of water for their domestic use.
At Zanko Paani, residents said they currently resort to pond water for domestic purposes such as cooking and drinking as the only borehole in the community had broken down.
Madam Iddrisu Marriama, a resident told the GNA in an interview that they were aware of the health risks associated with drinking from the pond but they have no option.
She said the population of the community overweighed the single borehole, which caused it to easily break down due to the excessive pressure on the facility.
You have come to see our problem. Our borehole often breaks down, so we fetch water from this pond… unfortunately, we are sharing this pond with animals”, she said.
“I have been having stomach pains. I know it’s because of the water, but there is nothing I can do,” she emphasized.
Mr Iddrisu Daluo, another resident told the GNA that they have been contributing almost every month to fix the borehole, which had brought unnecessary financial pressure on the people.
At Kaleo-bile, a locally dug well and a nearby stream serve as the only source of water for residents in the community, which often get silted in the dry seasons making access to water a very big challenge for them.
According to members of the community, the situation has exposed them to waterborne diseases, thereby, affecting their productivity levels especially the women.
The problem of some rural communities is poor health coupled with limited access to potable water.
The situation is further compounded in the dry seasons during which women cover long distances and spending hours competing with animals for water from streams and other open sources.
According to the Global Water Supply and Sanitation Assessment Report, over one billion people across the World do not have access to adequate and safe drinking water facilities with women and children being disproportionately affected.
Water is an essential prerequisite for development and growth, however, the situation where rural women spend hours every day, collecting and carting water directly from streams in competition with animals is a worrying development challenge.
Water is an essential basic need that must be available in order for human beings to survive and this must not be a luxury to these communities particularly women and children as they run their daily household chores.
SANITATION AND HEALTH
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), safe and readily available water is important for public health, whether it is used for drinking, domestic use, food production or recreational purposes.
Improved water supply and sanitation, and better management of water resources, can boost countries’ economic growth and can contribute greatly to poverty reduction, it said.
Also, it estimated that globally, at least 2 billion people use a drinking water source contaminated with faeces, adding that contaminated water can transmit diseases such as diarrhea, cholera, dysentery, typhoid, and polio.
Again, it said contaminated drinking water is estimated to cause 485,000 diarrheal deaths each year and that by 2025 half of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed areas.
In 2010, the UN General Assembly explicitly recognized the human right to water and sanitation saying; “Everyone has the right to sufficient, continuous, safe, acceptable, physically accessible, and affordable water for personal and domestic use”.
Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 6.1 calls for universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water.
The target is tracked with the indicator of “safely managed drinking water services” – drinking water from an improved water source that is located on premises, available when needed, and free from faecal and priority chemical contamination.
IMPROVED SANITATION BENEFITS
Benefits of improved sanitation extend well beyond reducing the risk of diarrhea according to the WHO.
It include reducing the spread of intestinal worms, schistosomiasis and trachoma which are neglected tropical diseases causing suffering for millions across the globe.
Again, it includes the severity and impact of malnutrition; promoting dignity and boosting safety, particularly among women and girls; promoting school attendance: girls’ school attendance is particularly boosted by the provision of separate sanitary facilities; and potential recovery of water, renewable energy and nutrients from faecal waste.
THE GHANA CONTEXT
Mr Eric Banye, Executive Director of Savannah Alliance Ghana noted that for many communities in Ghana, this target is far from reach.
“In Ghana, sharp geographic, socio-cultural and economic inequalities persist, not only between rural and urban areas but also in towns and cities where people living in low-income, informal, or illegal settlements usually have less access to improved sources of drinking-water than other residents”, he emphasized.
According to Mr Banye, the Sustainable Water Supply project is a dream comes true for the communities that were carefully selected in collaboration with the respective district assemblies.
He said the high rate of water borne diseases sometimes leading to deaths has therefore become a major concern for stakeholders, hence, the initiation of the Direct Aid Project (DAP).
THE DIRECT AID PROGRAMME
The Sustainable Water Supply Project is one of the projects funded by the Australian High Commission under the DAP, which is a flexible, small grants programme.
The project is being implemented directly by Savannah Alliance Ghana, a local NGO in the Upper West Region with support from Azumah Resources, a mineral exploration and mining company operating in the region.
The aim is to support projects with a strong development focus that contribute to inclusive, sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction.
The primary objective of the DAP is to achieve a practical and tangible humanitarian or developmental outcome in vulnerable communities.
The areas include improving sanitation, waste services and facilities; improving services for people with disability or mental illness; strengthening accountability, transparency and good governance in the extractives sector; and promoting gender equality and empowering women and girls by supporting female-led organisations.
The projectdemonstrate consideration to gender and disability inclusion in the design and implementation by ensuring women and people with disabilities are consulted and included in the development of project proposals, as well as in their implementation.
The project seeks to ensure these beneficiary communities especially women, children and the physically challenged have access to potable water whilst their health status particularly with regards to waterborne diseases would also be improved.
This is expected to increase productivity as women, children and the physically challenged will now spend lesser hours in accessing and carting water from unsafe sources for their domestic use.
Mr Eric Banye, Executive Director of Savannah Alliance Ghana said the project would ensure the drilling of seven boreholes and also train and equip seven Water and Sanitation (WATSAN) Committees with skills on water facility management as well.
He said in the end, a total of 5,000 women would have access to potable water whilst long distances covered and time spent in accessing water would be significantly reduced to enhance productivity.
EQUITY AND INCLUSION
Mr Banye noted that in line with the Australia High Commission’s focus on equity and inclusion, the project had a strong inclusion and equity agenda.
“Women are fully involved in the site selection, drilling and management of the boreholes. The project also takes into consideration other vulnerable groupings including people with disability”, he said.
In all, the Executive Director of Savannah Alliance Ghana said seven rural communities were selected across fourdistricts in the Upper West Region to benefit from the project.
They include, Leli, Musama, and Konne-Kakala communities in the Nadowli-Kaleo District; Jangfiang and Zinye communities in the Wa East District, Bapila community in the Nandom Municipality and Orifan community in the Jirapa Municipality.
The DAP being implemented by the Savannah Alliance Ghana and funded by the Australian High Commission through the Sustainable Water Supply Project to ensure beneficiary communities have access to safe sources of drinking water and sanitation facilities is commendable and worth emulation.
This is because tackling rural water and sanitation accessibility challenges must be a concern for all and the necessary resources galvanized to drive the agenda.
Government is doing well through the Sustainable Water Management Project but it is not over until all rural communities gain access to safe and sustainable access to potable water.
Rural women also have equal rights and must not continue to compete for water with animals which puts their health and that of their families at risk.