Friday, February 27, 2015

Contaminated water kills 10,000 annually

By Edmund Smith-Asante, ACCRA

Only10 per cent of urban and rural dwellers in Ghana treat their water before drinking, a household water treatment and safe storage (HWTS) assessment conducted by UNICEF has established.

This is notwithstanding the fact that as of 2013, about 92 per cent of urban dwellers and 80 per cent of the rural population had access to potable water.

The assessment also found that only 17 out of 100 people who drink from unimproved sources treat their water.

As a result of the large number of people who do not treat their drinking water, approximately 10,000 deaths occur annually through diarrhoea, due to contamination, the fourth leading cause of child deaths in Ghana.

These were disclosed at a HWTS strategy workshop held week Tuesday, where the stakeholders deliberated on the best way to tackle the lack of treatment of drinking water.

Implementation of the strategy, which was developed with the help of UNICEF, will be spearheaded by the Environmental Health and Sanitation Directorate (EHSD) of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD).

Mr Emmanuel Addai, one of two consultants helping to develop a strategy to stop the practice, said “the goal of the strategy is to contribute to the achievement of improved health for all by 2025.

“This goal will be achieved by pursuing sustainable and effective promotion and adoption of HWTS as a behaviour, and through the use of appropriate technologies that make drinking water safe at the point of use,” he said.

Mr Addai listed the guiding principles for the strategy as the adoption of an approach that will regard HWTS as part of an integrated approach to primary healthcare, saying handwashing and health promotion were some of the approaches.

It will also guarantee the fundamental rights of people without discrimination to safe and adequate water to meet their basic needs.

Principles guiding the strategy include equity and gender sensitivity in the planning and implementation of HWTS and partnerships between the public and private sector.

The HWTS Strategy
The strategy is anchored on seven thematic areas and an implementation model that adopts a three-pronged approach into scaling up HWTS nationwide.

These are behaviour-first, public private partnership and commercial/business approach.  
HWTS will be mainstreamed within the scope of relevant policy documents like the National Water Policy, Environmental Sanitation Policy, National Health Policy and National HIV and AIDS Policy.

According to the strategy, the government will make the necessary financial commitments towards implementation of the relevant portions of the policies that relate to HWTS.

To create an enabling environment, the government will also develop national standards for safe water supply, at the point of use and for assessment of HWTS products.

The workshop participants, who included environmental officers from some sub metropolitan assemblies, were also taken through a scale-up model for the strategy.

Contributing to discussions on the strategy, the District Environmental Officer of the Ashiedu-Keteke sub metro, Rev Charles Gawugbe, asked that traditional methods are employed to treat water, since there was limited capacity for other methods such as the use of aqua tablets.

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