Sustainable Development Goal 6, one of the 2015 United Nations General Assembly’s seventeen (17 ) global goals stipulates “Clean Water and Sanitation for All”, seeks to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
This enjoins Governments to provide clean water and sanitation for all its citizens by 2030.
Ghana’s 2020 Demographic and Health Survey indicates that while “more than half of Ghanaian households have a designated place for washing hands, only one out of every five households have water or handwashing agents available at home”. The report also reveals that about “44% of the 5,332 rural households surveyed lack access to soap and water for handwashing”.
Additionally, water.org indicates that nearly three million people rely on surface water to meet their daily water needs, living them vulnerable to water-related illness and diseases while 31 percent of Ghanaians lack access to improved sanitation or are entirely without toilet facilities.
Handwashing Stations Without Water
Access to safe clean water is critical in the fight against the spread of the Corona Virus following the World Health Organization’s safety protocols among which is “handwashing under running water for twenty seconds”.
However, the unavailability of water triggered by unstable power in the Northern region is diversely impacting adherence to the handwashing safety protocol. This phenomenon which has persisted from March 2021 is forcing the management of educational institutions to leave handwashing stations erected in school premises on the onset of the pandemic without water.
Again, handwashing stations at market spaces and transport premises have become white elephants. Prince Kwame Tamakloe, Northern Regional Correspondent of Rainbow Radio Online observed during series of visits to the Tamale central business district and some public educational institutions report a worrying trend across the board.
At the Kpalsi A.M.E Zion school, there was no handwashing water container, he observed. Headmaster of the school, Awin Joshua explained, “we were forced to remove the handwashing containers because there was continuous lack of water in the container and we don’t also get water anywhere to even buy to fill the containers for both the students and the staff to use to wash their hands.”
To ensure the containers were protected from the harsh weather, school management opted to disassemble them and keep them safe in an office.
The Tamale Technical University has a student population of over five thousand (5,000) with twenty-three (23) handwashing stations, however, only two containers stationed at the main administration and the institution’s hospital contained water at the time of our reporter’s visit.
The Health Commissioner of the school, a portfolio under the Students’ Representative Council (SRC), Abdul-Razak Mohammed lamented on how the absence of water is impeding their efforts as representatives. He disclosed the situation compelled the school authority and the SRC to constantly purchase water.
“The water shortage in the school has made it impossible for us to fill those containers because sometimes we have money and ready to buy but you won’t even get the water tankers to buy from”, Abdul-Razak added that
An honest Health Commissioner intimated that the school broke its ties with the handwashing culture months ago.
“Frankly speaking, we have not been washing our hands for some months now since the water problem became very serious, we know it is not the best but that’s not our fault.”
At the Tamale main transport stations, Prince Kwame Tamakloe found a miserable-looking hand washing station serving the entire terminal of about five hundred vehicles and drivers. It did not just appear miserable; it contained no drop of water.
Issah Abdul-Aziz, a sprinter bus conductor said that drivers are unwilling to invest their meager income from their trade-in daily water purchasing.
“We buy water to fill this container every single day but it is affecting our profit because it is not only our passengers that use it to wash their hands so that’s why we have stopped”, he explained.
Ghana Water Company
The Northern Regional Public Relations Officer of the Ghana Water Company, Nii Abbey Abbey blamed the inability of the water supplying company to meet the demand on the growing population.
“Demand for water in the region is greater than the ability to supply so water is been rationed, as we speak, we can supply only 7 million gallons a day while the demand is 20 million gallons averagely a day so until the new water production center in Tamale is completed, this is the problem we will battle with.”
The only alternative he thinks residents can explore is rain harvesting but the rains are not coming as expected due to climate change challenges. Residents in the Northern region have to defy the handwashing protocol by the World Health Organization and risk spreading the Covid-19 as they battle with water shortage.
Covid-19 Case Count
The Northern region as of 12th May had recorded 1,654 cases with 29 deaths and 1,625 recoveries.
By 11th May 2021, Ghana’s confirmed cases stood at 93,011 with 783 deaths while recoveries and discharges stood at 90,697 making the country’s active cases to 1,531.
The writer is a Mentee under the Mobilizing Media to Fighting COVID-19 project by Journalist for Human Rights.
By: Prince Kwame Tamakloe – Rainbow Radio\Tamale.