Monday, November 19, 2012

Over 10 million Ghanaian women, girls lack adequate sanitation

A female public toilet in Ghana
Over eight in ten women in Ghana have no access to a safe toilet, which threatens their health and exposes them to shame, fear and even violence, says WaterAid in Ghana, a non-governmental organisation in water, sanitation and hygiene.
In a statement released on World Toilet Day commemorated globally on Monday, November 19, 2012, the organisation said currently in Ghana, a total of 10.5 million women and girls lack safe and adequate sanitation, out of which 2.3 million don’t have access to a toilet at all.
This then suggests that 2.3 million of the 4.8 million Ghanaian populace that currently practice open defecation every day, are women and girls.
Globally however, more than one in three (1.25 billion) women in the world lack access to safe sanitation, out of which 526 million of them practice open defecation.  
On what the current state portends for Ghana’s female population, WaterAid states: “Lack of decent sanitation also affects productivity and livelihoods. Women and girls living in Ghana without toilet facilities spend 425 million hours each year finding a place to go in the open.”
It adds that poor hygiene has serious implications on health, with 3,600 mothers in Ghana losing a child to diarrhoeal diseases caused by a lack of adequate sanitation and clean water every year.
Obtainable statistics show that currently around 2,000 children die every day from diseases caused by dirty water and poor sanitation.
Commenting on the situation, Dr. Afia Zakiya, WaterAid in Ghana’s Country Representative, said: “When women don’t have a safe, secure and private place to go to the toilet they are exposed and put in a vulnerable position and when they relieve themselves in the open they risk harassment. Women are reluctant to talk about it or complain, but the world cannot continue to ignore this.”
Confirming this, a survey commissioned by WaterAid of women living across five slums in Lagos, Nigeria, showed that one in five had first or second hand experience of verbal harassment and intimidation, or had been threatened or physically assaulted in the last year when going to the toilet.
This figure may however be high, according to anecdotal evidence from communities around the world.
Studies have also been conducted in Uganda, Kenya, India and the Solomon Islands, which show that experiences of fear, indignity and violence are common place wherever women lack access to safe and adequate sanitation.
Among others, the polls showed that the most common location for women accessing sanitation facilities was ‘informal outside location’ (40%) as compared to a toilet within their own home (33%), public toilet in the area where they live (19%) or public toilet at their place of work (6%).
Sixty-eight out of 100 women also agreed that the cost of accessing public toilets was a problem for them, while sixty-one out of hundred agreed that the public toilets that they normally used were unhygienic.
At present, one in eight of the world’s population (783 million people) live without safe water, while 39 out of every 100 people (2.5 billion people) live without sanitation.
Dr. Afia Zakiya making her presentation at Tamale. Pix: Peter Serinye
Meanwhile, according to a briefing presented by Dr. Afia Zakiya at Ghana’s commemoration of World Toilet Day in Tamale, Monday, November 19, 2012, at current rates of progress, it will be over 165 years before Sub-Saharan Africa meets its sanitation MDG target, and another 350 years to get to universal access. 
She said for South Asia, it will be over 25 years before it meets its sanitation MDG target, and nearly 70 years to get universal access at current rates of progress.

WaterAid’s Country Representative further disclosed that s
ince 1990, around 900 million women and girls have gained access to safe sanitation facilities, while over a billion have gained access to clean drinking water

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