Professor Chris Gordon, Director, Institute of Environment and Sanitation, University of Ghana, Legon, on Tuesday said open defecation cost Ghana 79 million dollars per year, where as it would require less than one million latrines to eliminate the practice.
He said open defecation led to epidemic disease outbreaks like cholera, especially when human excreta and urine entered water bodies, and called for concerted efforts and strong political will to address the problem.
Prof. Gordon was speaking at the 64th Annual New Year School being organized in Accra by the University of Ghana's Institute of Continuing and Distance Education for a cross section of the public to brainstorm on water, sanitation and hygiene issues which had become a major problem facing the country.
It is on the theme: “The Key to Future Health of our Nation: Improved Water, Sanitation and Hygiene,” with sponsorship from major institutions including the Ghana News Agency.
Prof. Gordon said 16 million Ghanaians used unsanitary or shared latrines while 4.8 million had no latrines at all and defecated in the open.
“The poorest is 22 times more likely to practice open defecation than the richest,” he added.
“If we fail in education and research, we fail in everything. Training and research in developing countries need a radically redesigned approach,” he said.
Prof. Gordon said the approach needed to address issues of relevance and applicability to national development needs, with emphasis placed on knowledge creation and better understanding of processes and interaction as well as cost-effective innovation.
“World class education and research has to be seen as part of the same development agenda, just as all the over-arching issues such as gender, sustainability and inter-generational equity,” he said.
He blamed the media for not devoting more columns on sanitation issues as compared to others.
Prof. Gordon said the media gave more than 50 per cent coverage of its regional coverage concentrating on Accra, which, he said, was unfair representation of the issues on the ground.
Professor Samuel Afrane, Provost of the College of Arts and Social Science, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, contributing on slums and peri-urban development in Ghana, said slums and peri-urban development cut across the urban landscape.
He said large proportions of population in West Africa lived in slums and in Ghana, according to 2001 statistics, 4.1 million Ghanaians lived in slums. The number increased to 5.5 per cent in 2008.
Prof. Afrane said 51 per cent of Ghana’s population lived in the cities and if the trend continued it would rise to 58.5 per cent in 2020.
He identified lack of urban and regional planning systems to curtail movement of people; use of obsolete planning technology and inadequate human resources; unresolved legislative conflicts and inconsistencies, and poor coordination among urban development actors as factors increasing the number of slums.
“We cannot deal with slums in a hit-and-run approach, it must be dealt with holistically,” he said.