Ghana, has failed to deal with the increasing rate of poor sanitation for many years. A large portion of the nation’s failures, could be linked to the discovery of sachet water and issues relating to rural urban migration.
As a result of this, notable disease like cholera has been on the rise and several human lives have been lost as a result of the country’s poor sanitation. In the midst of the Cholera out-break, the uncontrolled flames of Ebola is also hovering around countries close to Ghana.
Mensah Guinea is a slam which is close to the sea and located in Accra. Hundreds of illegal structures located in the area, have been demolished as a result of cholera outbreak which led to the death of sixteen people early this year.
In an interaction with Nii Akwei, a lifeguard whose only brother contracted the disease and passed on in June, this year, he explains that poor insanitory conditions, have contributed largely to the spread of the cholera disease within the enclave.
“Food sold here are uncovered and are not served in the right condition for consumption. We defecate in the open and there is no proper place for us to dump our refuse”, Nii narrates. He reveals that when his brother first contracted the disease, he never visited the hospital to seek medical attention because they had no idea it was cholera.
But rather, Nii claims he personally visited a local pharmacy shop to buy medication used to treat stomach upsets and diarrhea for his brother. With a sad face, he reveals that his ailing brother passed away days later. “The main reason my brother couldn’t show up at a clinic or hospital was because we had no money to pay the bills”, he disclosed.
The annual cycle of cholera outbreaks is linked to insanitary conditions and unacceptable socio-cultural habits, coupled with an infrastructure deficit and Mensah Guinea is no different. Its immediate surrounding looks unclean to be inhabited by humans, but Nii Akwei reveals that due to the nature of his work, he decided to set up his home at the place.
Majority of the housing structures located there are wooden in nature and there is no proper layout.
The area has no proper drainage system and filth has taken over vast portions of the land. Heaps of rubbish can be found everywhere but Nii Akwei points out that he has lived in the condition for more than seven years and doesn’t believe the filth would be cleared anytime soon.
In an attempt to create awareness about improving sanitation conditions, the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD) under the oversight of its sector minister, Hon. Julius Debrah, recently announced that government, has invested heavily in infrastructural projects such as drainage, water supply and health care facilities across the country.
The ministry has also collaborated with the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) to fight cholera. In doing so, the AMA, under the leadership of the Mayor of Accra, Alfred Oko Vanderpuije, has succeeded in pulling down several houses located in slums.
Despite rendering hundreds of people homeless through such demolishing exercise, the Accra Mayor of Accra believes the measure is justifiable.
Mayor of Accra justifies demolishing exercise
Pulling down houses seems like an extreme way of tackling cholera within the capital but Mr. Vanderpuije explains that ever since he forcefully evacuated some residents living in slums, data available to the assembly shows that cholera cases in Accra have dropped.
In an interview with the Accra Mayor he noted that “when we went to Mensah Guinea at that time, we were having Cholera at thousand (1000) a day…and then when we demolished the place and some other aspects in Accra including illegal food vendors, the Cholera cases started dropping.
Every month, we were seeing a drop of cases between one hundred and fifty (150) to two hundred (200) and today, cholera cases is below fifty in Accra”, he happily added.
But the Head of Public Health at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, Dr. Philip K. Amoo, claims from the first week of July till date, over eighteen thousand (18,000) cases of Cholera have been recorded in the Accra Metropolis alone. He proposed that to solve the problem, the government agency in charge of water, the Food and Drug Authority (FDA) and AMA must be kept on their toes.
“The AMA would have to do their work and the food and the FDA must check water producers and make sure that they are following standards… anytime you see cholera shoot up uncontrollably, you should know drinking water has been contaminated”, he explained.
However, the mayors’ claim that cholera cases have reduced drastically as a result of pulling down houses were also backed by Chairman for Environment and head of Rapid Response Unit at the Accra Metropolitan Assembly, Dr. Philip Lamptey. But as to how this feat was achieved, Dr. Lamptey couldn’t clearly state how it was done but maintained that the situation is now under control.
Victims cry out
Despite receiving funds from foreign donors to clear filth in Accra, some residents had their housing properties destroyed. Donors from the Netherlands and the government of Ghana embarked on a multi-annual programme in Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH).
The programme focuses on integrated urban water and sanitation in five selected municipalities and has an indicative budget of € 200 million. Under this, the Ga Waste Project would deal with waste separation. The idea is to separate household waste into waste components and then deposit residue in a sanitary landfill.
€17,000,000 is being used to fund the project (to read more about it, kindly visit: http://gnwp.akvoapp.org/en/) but Armah Tetteh, is a victim who witnessed a bulldozer raze down his structure.
His personal properties got destroyed and in a solemn voice, he tells me that when the AMA arrived with their demolishing team, they informed the inhabitants that they were there to monitor the Cholera situation.
“But the day after, they came back and started pulling down our houses. We pleaded with them and they told us to move from that place and occupy a different portion of the land”, he narrated.
Although many of Armah Tetteh’s kind have lost valuable items such as their television, fridges, amplifiers etc, Dr. Philip Lamptey made it clear that the Accra Metropolitan Assembly, has no plans to compensate them and this has left most of the victims in a state of despair.
A mother by name Esi Amankwah, who has also lived in the area for more than ten years, shared her side of the story. She is much worried about the consequence the demolishing would bring on young ladies living with their mums in the area.
According to her, now that most of them have lost their homes, it is safe to assure that some of these girls will prefer to stay with their boyfriends and this could result in teenage pregnancy.
She also called on President Mahama to intervene and bring closure to the matter. In a sad voice, she explains that the purpose for which the demolishing exercise was undertaken has been flawed since they now have to sit close to a public place of convenience when eating. She rhetorically asked if “sitting close to the toilet would decrease the rate of cholera in the area”.
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