When Nature CallsÖ

The Vice President Paa Kwesi Amissah-Arthur has been busy inspecting and launching boi-filter toilets and preaching good hygienic practices in the country. Veeps in the country are never remembered for anything, but Amissah-Arthurís efforts on sanitation may be the best thing any Veep ever did in this country. It may be remembered Aliu Mahama had launched similar initiatives earlier. However, if these efforts are not to go down in a flush, then the government needs to do more; and we mean much more. 19 November 2014 is World Toilet Day (WTD). Most Ghanaians may never have heard of World Toilet Day, but we hope that government has. World Toilet Day focuses on the importance of sanitation and aims to raise awareness about the billions of people around the world who do not have access to toilets and proper sanitation. World Toilet Day is almost here, but cholera is already here and Ebola is just next-door. What is the government planning to do? This is urgent. After almost 60 years of independence millions of Ghanaians still do not have access to basic toilet facilities. Why? As Government officials drive in their air-conditioned public funded four-wheel drives around the countryside, they must surely have seen villagers openly defecating and urinating on the roadside. How do these officials feel? Or do they drive so fast that they do not see? Donít they care? The lack of proper private toilets in schools is a major health issue. It makes our schools the ideal breeding grounds for the spread of diseases. Socially it is also poor conditioning for our children as future leaders who grow up knowing no better in terms of sanitation. What is the government doing about this? Mahatma Gandhi once said sanitation is more important than independence. And he was right. The statistics on sanitation are disturbing and it stinks: 2.5 billion people in the world, including several millions from Ghana do not have access to toilets. 2.7 million people die every year from lack of sanitation. In fact, more people die from diseases caused from not having a toilet than from HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB combined. Globally diarrhoea is the second biggest cause of child death. Let us be frank about it: the state of sanitation in this country is a disgrace and a total embarrassment. To put the problem in perspective consider this: 250 thousand households in the La Dade Kotopon Municipal Assembly alone do not have access to proper toilets. For most coastal communities open defecation is the norm. For villages with no clean water, where diarrhoea and other diseases are common, answering natureís call simply compounds the unsanitary conditions. This should not be. When nature calls and you really have to go, you have to go. If you cannot go in style, at least you have to be able to go with dignity and hygienically. Every Ghanaian deserves this after 60 years of independence. As a proud nation, we should plan to end open-air defecation. There should be nothing open about this. Let us fight to close it. As we go to press, the government is holding a national inquiry into the scandal in Brazil. That is all well and good. But what we need more urgently is an inquiry on the state of the nationís sanitation. This is a call to action. If the government will not respond to this editorial, it must at least help the millions of Ghanaians without proper toilets to respond in dignity when nature calls. Ghanaians deserve this.