BY EDMUND SMITH-ASANTE
Over a thousand people took part in a walk for water and sanitation in Accra, Ghana on Saturday, March 23 and also to commemorate World Water Day, which was marked globally on Friday, March 22, 2013.
At about 7am, the large crowd of people comprising employees of WaterAid Ghana (WAG), Guinness Ghana Breweries Limited (GGBL) and Green is Easy Foundation, three organisations whose collaboration brought about the walk, as well as student groups, the Ghana Prisons Service, Ghana Fire Service, Police and Ghana Armed Forces among others, commenced the 10km walk from the Aviation Social Centre.
According to organisers of the 2-hour fun walk dubbed “Accra Walks for Water 2013”, apart from commemorating the 2013 World Water Day, the walk was aimed at raising funds for an integrated water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) project for the Akropong School for the Blind, Ghana’s foremost educational institution for the visually impaired, which currently has a student population of about 400 and over 50 teachers.
Explaining what informed the collaboration with WAG, Preba Arkaah Greenstreet, Corporate Relations Director, GGBL stated; “As a business we believe in empowering vulnerable groups and communities through our ‘Water of Life’ programme, which is one of our major corporate social responsibility focus areas.”
She indicated that the target was GH¢79,000 and that GGBL will match all funds raised up to the full cost through employee donations and support from Diageo’s businesses in North America.
Addressing the large crowd before the start of the walk, Mr. Harold Clottey, Deputy Director, Water Directorate, Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing, said the exercise exemplified the theme for the 22nd anniversary of World Water Day, “The International Year of Water Cooperation.”
“This walk exemplifies the cooperation in the theme and we at the Water Directorate commend you for this,” he told the organisers.
He said the Directorate recognised the important role WaterAid Ghana and Guinness Ghana are playing in providing deprived communities in Ghana access to water and sanitation facilities.
“We assure you of the Government’s support and the Water Directorate’s doors are opened to you for meaningful partnership for mutual benefit, which will eventually be of immense benefit to our country. I urge you to continue such service to communities to stop polluting water bodies, so that Ghana, WaterAid, Guinness and other private sector agencies, with government support that invests in water sector, can provide water for all Ghanaians by 2025,” Mr. Clottey stated.
Esther Peprah, a form 2 student of the Accra Girls Secondary School who took part in the walk, said she had joined in to promote water and sanitation. Disclosing in an interview during the walk that her school had an environmental club with more than hundred members, she said the walk was very significant because “First it brings out the importance of sanitation and promotes water for life.”
Rosina from the Ghana Prisons Service, who also took part in the walk, said she had joined the walk because “Apart from advertising water for life, it is also a health walk that can keep the body moving, so I think it is a good programme that everybody who has the opportunity must take part in to keep the body moving and also show that water is life and so is sanitation.”
She indicated that although there is water at the quarters for prison officers, it could still be improved, while affirming that because they as prison officers realise the importance of water to the inmates, polytanks have been provided to cater for any shortfalls in water supply, as without water most of their work is held up.
Giving his impressions after the walk, Ibrahim Musah, Head of Policy and Partnerships, WaterAid Ghana, said “It has been fantastic, it has been incredible, for once in my life I have seen how ordinary folks, big people in society like Nana Kobina Nketia, WaterAid Country Representative, Guinness Ghana Managing Director walking for water to raise awareness on the need for water sustainability and to raise funds for an incredible worthy purpose of providing WASH facilities for the Akropong School for the Blind – I am satisfied.”
He said although 3,000 people were expected for the walk, they had over 1,000 participating, which was still a good enough number.
For her part, Dr. Afia Zakiya, Country Representative for WaterAid Ghana who could not hide her joy at the turn of events, said; “This has been a fantastic day. The support has been simply wonderful and people have become aware of the water, sanitation and hygiene situation, so this is a fantastic feeling.”
She said the next step after the walk will be to continue to have dialogue and keep organising people, adding, “The voice of the people should be heard and hopefully that will move government to act and take on its responsibility.”
Dr. Zakiya stated further, that her organisation will continue to make people aware of their responsibilities in keeping their water bodies and environments clean and organise more walks, since it is also a healthy activity.
Adding to comments made earlier by his colleague on what informed the collaboration with WaterAid Ghana for the walk, Richard Ahiable, Corporate Relationship Manager, Guinness Ghana Breweries Limited (GGBL), said it was in line with activities employees engage in every year to mark World Water Day.
“Two years ago we had a walk, last year we had an internal event, so this year we decided to make it bigger and in line with the world theme which is ‘the international year of water cooperation’ we decided to collaborate with WaterAid and not just to walk, but also to raise funds for the Akropong School for the blind,” he said.
“For us as a business, we have a corporate social responsibility project – ‘Water of Life’ through which we give access to clean drinking water to thousands of Ghanaians every year. So it was just an opportunity for us to collaborate to be able to do a project like that for the Akropong School for the Blind,” Richard Ahiable explained further.
He expressed his satisfaction at the turnout for the walk despite other similar events like the International Central Gospel Church (ICGC’s) health walk and Accra-based radio station -Joy FM’s workout programmes and was optimistic the number would improve in subsequent years.
World Water Day is commemorated annually as a United Nations designated day, to focus attention and to advocate for the effective management and use of fresh water resources. To mark the day, walks involving hundreds of thousands of people and dubbed ‘World Walks for Water and Sanitation’, were organised in several countries worldwide including Ghana, to raise awareness on the need for cooperation in the delivery of water and sanitation services.
By Edmund Smith-Asante