An epidemic is looming in the Ada West District in the Greater Accra Region where some residents in many of the communities have resorted to indiscriminate defaecation because the public toilets are not usable.
Whereas some of them engage in 'free range' (defaecating in open spaces), especially around the public toilets, others parcel their faeces in black plastic bags at home and deposit them anywhere in their communities.
At Akplabanya, the largest town in the district, the residents have refused to use a water closet public toilet since it was inaugurated about seven years ago for various reasons. For instance, they say they were not involved in its planning and execution.
Rather, they prefer to defaecate in the open spaces near the rejected public toilet.
Many of the public toilets are located within the communities, raising fears among environmental health officials that the situation might lead to an epidemic.
“The situation is very serious and something has to be done about it before we experience any disaster,” Mr Divine Kpo, an environmental health officer in the Ada West District, said when the Daily Graphic visited the district last Saturday to assess the environmental situation there.
But the District Chief Executive (DCE), Mr Anthony Yao Klokpa, later told the Daily Graphic in a telephone interview that “we are dealing with the issue”.
The public toilet at Sege, the district capital, has been closed since March 2013 because the CommunityWater and Sanitation Agency (CWSA) had cut water supply to the facility due to its indebtedness of about GH¢5,800.
Under the circumstance, some of the residents are using the environs of the public toilet and even the backyard of the district assembly offices nearby as alternative places of convenience via 'free range', which comes at no cost, compared with the GHp20 charged for using the public toilet.
The DCE confirmed the indebtedness to the CWSA but he pointed out that the person who was managing the toilet had been able to raise money to settle the indebtedness.
He said the district assembly was talking to the CWSA to restore the water supply, adding, “As we speak now, there is headway.”
At Lolonya and Goi, although the Kumasi Ventilated Improved Pit (KVIP) public toilets are full, the human waste has not been dislodged for a long time, rendering the toilets unusable.
According to Mr Kpo, the two KVIPs were built many years ago and because for a long time they had not been dislodged and the gas emanating from the human waste in the pit could cause an explosion.
Already, some cracks have developed in the walls of the 10-seater public toilet buildings, and Mr Kpo advised this reporter against going inside to take pictures of the cracks because he believed the quality of the buildings had been seriously compromised.
Nevertheless, he said, some people still risked their lives by using the facility, especially in the night, while others littered the environment with faeces in their raw state or 'parcelled'.
As we went round examining the situation, he kept cautioning me to be wary of the 'landmines' (toilet on the ground), a caution I heeded with a gliding movement.
Mr Klokpa admitted that the KVIP public toilets in the two communities were old, saying, “Actually, we are concerned about the situation”.
Mr Kpo advised that the public toilets should be demolished immediately in order to avert disaster, adding that there was the need for new toilets to be built for the communities.
The DCE said the district assembly was considering the demolition of the old toilet facilities and the building of new ones for the communities.
He added that the construction of KVIPs in communities was being discouraged but given the challenges of water supply in the communities, the district assembly would make a case for the construction of new KVIPs, instead of water closets.
An elderly woman at Goi, whose house is close to the public toilet, was so disheartened about the situation that she could not help making her case as she stepped out of the bathhouse.
“I am tired of sweeping toilet every morning,” she said in Ga Dangme.
Asked where she attends to the call of nature, given the bad state of the public toilet now, she pointed at the beach, about 50 metres away.
What is more worrying to Mr Kpo is that during the bumper fishing season, some of the women dry fish near the public toilets, on the very grounds that they defaecate on.
Toilet close to clinic
Mr Kpo also called for the demolition of another public toilet at Anyamam because, apart from being full, its structural integrity was weak.
Moreover, he said, whenever it rained, the rain water collected faecal materials from the public toilet onto the immediate surroundings, and considering that there was a clinic close by, the existence of that public toilet was not good for health reasons.
He also noted that there were two other toilet facilities on the same premises (one for the local basic school) which were better managed to serve the needs of the community.
Unlike Lolonya and Goi which have KVIP public toilets, Akplabanya may be considered more fortunate for having a water closet public toilet.
Interestingly, since the CWSA-sponsored public toilet was inaugurated about seven years ago, the residents have refused to use it because, according to Mr Kpo, they were not involved in the execution of the project.
They are also sceptical about the safety of the effluent storage facility, expressing the fear that it might explode one day.
Furthermore, the residents are not happy that no community member was trained to repair the machine that pumps the toilet into the effluent storage facility.
Their decision not to use the public toilet is also informed by the fact that the facility was sited in a low-lying area and so whenever it rains, the premises get flooded, making access difficult.
When the Daily Graphic visited the premises last Saturday, the beautiful public toilet edifice looked deserted.
The caretaker confirmed that the residents did not patronise the toilet facility, but when asked the reason for that attitude, he said, “I don't know”.
Mr Klokpa told this reporter that the contractor did not consider the water level, adding, “The whole thing out there is a flop”.
He, however, said the district assembly had taken steps to address the situation with the construction of a new toilet facility nearby, which would be inaugurated soon.
According to Mr Kpo, this problem could have been averted or could be resolved with education but that had not been done yet.
Another troubling sanitation problem in the district is the indiscriminate dumping of refuse.
In some places such as Lolonya, some of the residents said the rubbish containers provided by the district assembly were not emptied regularly, hence the indiscriminate dumping of refuse.
In other places, there are no rubbish containers and so indiscriminate dumping of refuse has become the norm.
Lack of resources
Mr Kpo indicated that doing regular supervisory work and educating the people was difficult because his office did not have the requisite tools and means of transportation to do so “and so we go round once every week”.
He also said there was the need for the district assembly to allocate part of its share of the District Assembly Common Fund to finding solution to the sanitation challenges.
Efforts to contact the District Chief Executive to find out how the district assembly is dealing with the situation were not successful, as his mobile phone number was said to be “out of coverage area”.
Kofi Yeboa,Daily Graphic.