The Senior Presidential Advisor, Paul Victor Obeng, yesterday, August 14, 2013 opened Ghana’s longest running water, sanitation and hygiene conference at Fumesua, near Kumasi in the Ashanti Region, with a call on the about 140 participants to focus on building new coalitions of those who are willing to change the country’s fortunes.
To him, such action will enable appreciation of Ghana’s limitations, codify the country’s sanitation challenges and apply appropriate technologies to improve access to sanitation services.
Delivering the keynote address on the theme “Building Effective Partnership for Scaling-Up Sustainable Sanitation Services in Ghana” in the stead of Guest of Honour President John Dramani Mahama, Mr. P. V. Obeng lamented the fact that the conference was looking at a way of building partnerships at a time it should have been evaluating performance in policy implementation as a way of winding up activities on the MDGs, saying it showed something had gone fundamentally wrong.
He therefore called on the stakeholders to develop enforceable standards for achieving the 54 per cent coverage in sanitation, saying that the country had under-performed in that sector due to the lack of urgency in the implementation of policies.
“We all know we have underperformed in the sanitation sector, so whatever needs to be done should be done with a certain level of urgency in order to recover lost time,” the Presidential Advisor emphasised.
“We need a complete passionate evaluation of what has been done, who did what and who has not done what, to be used as building blocks for scaling up performance,” he said.
Mr. P. V. Obeng admonished the participants to institute a new partnership in public education and dissemination, to sensitize the public on the new ways that waste should be handled.
For her part, Prof. Esi Awuah, Vice Chancellor, University of Energy and Natural Resources, who delivered the theme address, stated that although private sector participation in the sanitation sector has increased, there has not been a corresponding progress as expected, due to bribery, corruption, nepotism and tribalism, which have caused the award of contracts to incompetent people in the sector.
The Vice Chancellor expressed worry that countries were becoming dependent on Development Partners (DPs) for service delivery in the sector, since governments have not been very proactive because they have low knowledge of sanitation.
To help change that she suggested the scaling up of best sanitation practices including waste sorting and making use of all waste generated.
Chair for the opening, Dr. Doris Yaa Dartey, Board Chair of the Graphic Communications Group commended CONIWAS for the moderate achievements made so far through its work and past Mole conferences but cautioned participants that the sanitation crisis of yester years was still the reality today.
In her acceptance speech, Dr. Dartey urged Ghanaians to take management of the waste generated by every individual very seriously because sanitation is at the heart of the country’s development.
She cautioned the participants drawn from communities, civil society organizations, academia, government and development partners among others, to be careful that the sanitation crisis does not become a norm, saying “when crisis pertains for a long time it becomes the norm.”
When he took his turn, Hon. Akwasi Oppong-Fosu, Minister for Local Government and Rural Development, said the lack of enforcement of laws was one of the debilitating factors against sanitation delivery in Ghana, and that the system is fostered through the politicization of issues in Ghana.
“People break the law and when they are apprehended, they quickly assume political tags of foot-soldiers and opposition leaders, so they can escape prosecution,” the minister stated.
He warned that unless the indiscipline is rooted out, no laws can be enforced in the country.
“Sanitation-related diseases do not know any political boundaries so we need to deal with the canker of indiscipline in the sector as well as deal with the politicization of issues so that we can enforce policies and laws in Ghana,” Hon. Oppong-Fosu stressed.
Mr. Farouk Braimah, the CONIWAS Chair and the Ashanti Regional Minister earlier took turns to welcome participants to the conference and to the region respectively, while short statements were made by the Anik Desmeules-Raggio, Development Partners in Ghana Lead, Mr. Lenason Naa Demedeme, Acting Director, Environmental Health Sanitation Directorate, Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development and Mr. Fred Addae, Director Water, Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing.
The dignitaries led by Mr. P. V. Obeng later opened the conference exhibition, which is a key side event of the Mole series.
Mr. P. V. Obeng also earlier launched a new Think Tank for Sanitation in Africa which currently has four member countries comprising Ghana, Cameroon, Benin and Burkina Faso.
The conference has so far registered over 140 participants from communities, civil society organizations, academia, government and development partners among others.
From Edmund Smith-Asante, Fumesua, Ashanti Region