Chiefs, the media, religious and civil society oganisations in the Volta Region have been called upon to join forces using religious norms to address the incidence of open defecation (OD) in the region.
About 50 percent of the population of the region was said to engage in the practice with 31 percent doing so daily, Mr Ben Arthur, Executive Secretary of the Coalition of Non Governmental Organisation in Water and Sanitation (CONIWAS) observed at a workshop.
The workshop, under the auspices of the Government of Ghana and United Nations Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF) Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programme, was to encourage Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) drive in OD communities in the country.
The programme is being piloted in selected districts in the Volta, Central, Upper-East, Upper-West and Northern regions where the practice was found to be wide spread.
Ho and Keta Municipal areas, Biakoye, Kpando, and Kadjebi Districts were identified in the Volta region where some communities were rife with OD.
Mr Arthur said figures from the Ghana Statistical Service indicated that the average OD rate in the five regions stood at 57 percent.
He said the cost of sanitation challenges to Ghana every year stood at 490 million Ghana cedis which is one percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Mr Arthur said this constituted a huge burden which must be taken seriously by all.
The meeting observed that cultural and social norms and practices which in the past guided orderly behaviour by the populace could prove to be the solution to the problem of OD.
Kpale-Xorse near Bame and Agbelengor at Tokokoe near Ho are areas where strict biblical standards guided the behaviour of the people, have thus attained Open Defecation Free ODF) status using the injunction in Deuteronomy 23:12-14.
“Designate a place outside the camp where you can go to relieve yourself. As part of your equipment have something to dig with, and when you relieve yourself, dig a hole and cover up your excrement. For the Lord your God moves about in your camp to protect you and to deliver your enemies to you. Your camp must be holy, so that he will not see among you anything indecent and turn away from you.”
The participants observed that similarities between biblical and traditional norms which guided proper behaviour such as good sanitation practices must be applied in tackling the menace of OD.
They therefore suggested the use of traditional songs and drumming, anecdotes, folklores, proverbs, social exclusion, traditional sanctions, competition among clans as well as naming and shaming to tackle OD in communities.
They said unlike the past where traditional leaders used fear of the gods and spirits to get their people to conform to uphold traditional values that promote good sanitation, now the people must be convinced to appreciate the benefits of good sanitation practices and the consequences for doing otherwise.