The novel coronavirus pandemic also christened COVID-19 has negatively affected every aspect of human life in every part of the world as millions of precious lives are lost, many more persons infected and several more at high risk of getting infected. Many livelihood opportunities have also been lost due to shrinking growth of the economies around the globe resulting in increased poverty and hunger now and in the foreseeable future.
In Ghana, over 14,000 people have currently been infected with the virus with more than 70 deaths. The only known ways of containing and preventing the spread of COVID-19 are proper hand washing with soap under running water, wearing of personal protective equipment including face masks, use of hand sanitizers and observing social distancing under the World Health Organizations (WHO) safety protocols.
Regrettably, availability, accessibility and affordability of adequate running water, soap, and personal protective equipment remain a great challenge to the country’s effort made towards containing and preventing the spread of the virus.
It is against this backdrop that the Water Aid Ghana supported district Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) Platforms on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the Wa, Bongo and Kasena-Nankana West districts deem it necessary to share its position on critical issues related to the virus as it affects the quality of life of its constituents.
Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH): The targets of the SDG 6 include achieving universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all and access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all.
The United Nations (2010), in recognition of water and sanitation as an issue of human right stated that "The human right to water entitles everyone to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic uses." The Human Right to Water and Sanitation (HRWS) obliges governments to ensure that people can enjoy clean, available, acceptable, accessible, and affordable water and sanitation.
In Ghana, the Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources with a vision of “Sustainable water and environmental sanitation for all” works towards improving the living standards of Ghanaians through increased access to and use of safe water, sanitation and hygiene practices and sustainable management of water resources.
It is an undeniable fact that these well-articulated and clearly stated noble vision, goal and targets with human rights connotations are more relevant in this era of the global coronavirus pandemic than before. Regrettably, availability, accessibility and affordability of clean water and sanitation for all is still on the low side in rural and hard-to-reach communities particularly in the Wa, Bongo and Kasena-Nankana West districts despite modest gains made in the delivery of water and sanitation facilities.
This is not only greatly undermining the Human Right to Water and Sanitation of citizens especially the poor, vulnerable and marginalized groups of our population in rural areas but also making the fight against the spread of COVID-19 very weak and challenging as everyone is required under the safety protocols to regularly do proper hand-washing with soap.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs): The effective use of PPEs including face and nose masks, in the view of health experts, is one of the surest ways of containing and preventing the spread of COVID-19. In response, a good quantity of PPEs has been provided by the World Health Organization (WHO), Ghana Health Service among others to frontline health workers. In spite of this conscious effort made in the provision of PPEs to support the country’s fight against the virus, many health workers at various health facilities especially those in deprived and remote areas including Bongo, Wa and Kasana-Nankana West districts do not have adequate PPEs resulting in excessive fear of health workers in the discharge of their duty. With increasing number of infected cases and deaths, the supply of adequate PPEs including face masks and proper waste management in our communities and health care facilities are badly needed now than ever.
Stigmatization: It is well established that some fully recovered patients of COVID-19 have become victims of stigmatization and discrimination in society as they are reportedly ostracized by their own communities. Social stigma and discriminatory behaviours against people with COVID-19 do not only undermine their right to live in dignity and respect but also have the huge potential of making these people hide their COVID-19 health status and will not therefore seek early treatment. This would undoubtedly increase community spread and infections hence deepening the crisis and worsening the plight of the people in an already distressed COVID-19 impacted economy. For this reason, the time to end stigmatization of COVID-19 patients is now.
Having sufficiently established the disastrous impact of limited WASH facilities, inadequate PPEs and stigmatization on the fight against the fast-spreading coronavirus pandemic , it is hereby recommended that;
1. Government, in presenting the 2020 Mid-Year Budget Statement and Economic Policies in July this year should prioritize Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) by increasing budgetary allocations to ensure that every community including schools, healthcare facilities , markets and lorry stations in this country particularly those in Bongo, Wa and Kasena-Nankana West districts have adequate, clean, accessible and affordable water and sanitation facilities for proper hand washing with soap to effectively contain the spread of the virus.
2. The Ghana Health Service should increase the supply and equitable distribution of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other essential logistics to all frontline health workers at all levels of service delivery especially those in under-served communities.
3. All political parties and candidates for the 2020 Presidential and Parliamentary elections should consider providing more face masks, hand sanitizers, Veronica buckets and liquid soap to the electorate for hand washing than the usual parties’ T-Shirts and other party paraphernalia.
4. The Wa Municipal, Bongo and Kasena-Nankana West District Assemblies should review their respective Medium Term Development Plans and Composite Budgets for the purpose of ensuring WASH facilities receive priority attention and the negative impact on implementation plans for the achievement of the SDGs is mitigated.
5. The National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) and community leaders should intensify public sensitization and education against stigmatization and discrimination of persons tested positive of COVID-19
While recognizing and commending government for its 3-Month Free Water Policy currently being enjoyed by Ghanaians, we call on government to demonstrate high level of responsiveness by considering the above stated recommendations to contain and prevent the spread of COVID-19 to reduce its impact on the social and economic lives of the people.
Bismark Adongo Ayorogo Freeman Kanton
(Convener-Bongo CSOs Platform on SDGs) (Convener-Wa CSOs Platform on SDGs)
(Convener-KNWD CSOs Platform on SDGs)