The world over, sanitation cannot be underestimated as an ingredient that's essential to social and economic development. Ghana is the world's fastest-growing economy, with a government set on attracting investment and tourism.
That notwithstanding, if there is any challenge that has reared its ugly head and exposed this country as if those who are in charge are incapable of solving serious problems, it is the poor sanitation gazing at us and staining the flag of Ghana.
Over the years we have failed as a country to decisively and collectively stem the increasing poor sanitation which began a few decades ago after the higher country's income, rate of urbanization, and the advent of sachet water and other plastic substances.
A morning, afternoon, or evening walk or drive through the streets of the major cities, towns, and communities will show a staggering state of filth that has engulfed the country.
The insistent, earnest, and persistent question is what will it take us to nip this disgraceful scene in the bud as a nation? What collective efforts etched in commitment and leadership is required of us to address poor sanitation bedeviling us?
Apparently, providing a remedy to this menace cannot rest on the shoulders of one person, department, organization or even an assembly. The onus lies on us the citizenry, after all, we create this ourselves.
There's no doubt that we have taken so many things for granted and easily refused to think outside the box. With an increasing exhibition of such behavior, the difficulty in tackling the challenge.
Often people occupy positions of authority just for the glorification of it and not to render any transforming benefits to life and society. Some even go far-reaching lengths to lobby and fight for positions that they know they don't merit and cannot execute the job at hand.
Some are considered fit for positions out of nepotism and favoritism; concepts which have given room for square pegs in round holes. Can we get rid of the horrific insanitary conditions around us and prevent a stain on our flag? Sadness fills the coffers of my heart anytime I take a look at how we continue to tackle sanitation and its associated problems. We seem not to be poised to salvage the situation.
It looks like we are going around in a circle without any progress. For instance, when we encounter catastrophes and issues like floods, fire and motor accidents, tribalism and xenophobia, corruption and misappropriation, and now Covid-19 outbreak we strike,wail and condemn it.
We talk of it for a while, but soon after we return to the status quo, doing the things we used to do.
We create waste and dispose of them as if someone else will have to deal with that. There's little or no sense of civic responsibility. We litter our surroundings, cut down trees, burn rubbish and anything around us haphazardly.
We defecate on our beaches, pollute and choke gutters, pour human excreta into our sea as if there are no legislations. We even pollute our scarce water sources as if to suggest we have someone to create a new one for us after we've destroyed them.
We still build open gutters that are hardly maintained and turn them into dumping sites. Are we waiting for somebody to put us right?
Undoubtedly, we have a lot of infrastructure challenges and now Covid-19 toppling our predicament but trust you me, a clean environment and good sanitation can make a huge difference. Hence, the need to embrace concern and willingness to overcome it. I, for one, believe that all our efforts geared towards Covid-19 eradication, socio-economic and political advancement are zilch if we're unable to find solutions to a primary challenge such as poor sanitation.
Not until we've discovered the key to open the problematic door of poor sanitation, we'll continue to battle ill health, waste financial resources, and even taint the colors of the national flag.
What even saddens and worsens it is that most of our people in office who have the power to cause metamorphosis and make things happen to trot the globe every day. They see, admire, and appreciate the discipline, beauty, and wonderfulness of other nations and yet only return to have a 'nap or sleep' on homeland Ghana.
Turn your attention to our so-called markets and lorry stations. Has the global pandemic caused a change in its current state? The next time you're there, take a cursory look at everything around and you'll be disappointed at what you see. Nothing seems to work and nothing seems decent, organized, and respectable. The heaps of filth sitting on the market corners accompanied by heat need to be experienced than imagined.
Could it be the problem of no money? Surprisingly, we turned to our Korle lagoon in the centre of the city, and what does one witness? This is a natural resource that could have served as spectacular scenery for visitors to the capital city but has been reduced to a horrible polluted scene; the sight of which makes you feel like throwing up. Our creation has been entangled with the shackles of retrogression, yet we tout ourselves with all the accolades and encomium like 'Ghana the pride of Africa', 'Ghana the beacon of hope' among others.
To speak from the hip, we're undeserved not just for nothing but the singular reason and the buttressing fact that similar water bodies exist in other countries serving meaningful purposes. They're huge tourist attraction sites ranking in huge foreign exchanges and providing beauty for the cities. But we have turned ours into a refuse dump.
The trash has become an eyesore and a political flashpoint. I wonder if our officials in power rolled down the windows of their V8, Land Cruisers among other luxurious vehicles while driving around town to soak in the aromatic stench from the filthy and stinky city.
What happens when or what results show when the Ministry of Sanitation & Water Resources holds review workshops to find ways of improving its performance, including that of agencies like Zoomlion Ghana Limited, Ghana Water Company, Water Resources Commission, Community Water, and Sanitation Agency, etc to it?
A lack of sanitation holds back economic growth. According to the World Bank, the poor sanitation costs Ghana's economy around 420m Ghana Cedis which is equivalent to $290m annually. Are we on the onward march to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in the short possible time?
It is as if most of the institutions that are tasked to put things right are on sabbatical. Ghana is suffering from a sanitation syndrome which is affecting every nook and cranny of the society. If we want to witness accelerated growth and the economy jumping back to life after Covid-19, then we cannot continue this way.
Looking at the sordid picture of sanitation in our country, it behooves us to work towards the significant factors that will limit access to sanitation for the majority of our people so as to come out with long-lasting remedies to secure the present and future generations.
Such is the way to attain a good standard of living that will catapult Ghana to greater heights, lifting Ghana's Flag aloft the highest to fly even tall.
Let's bear in mind that the flag of Ghana when tainted because of poor sanitation becomes irredeemably maligned. It signifies our identity and soul, so we can only maintain our love for the red, gold, green, and the black star if we keep Ghana clean and spare a blot on the flag.
Sanitation problems in Ghana cannot be solved overnight. This issue needs generational influence! In our pursuit of the surest measure of happiness, we must push our efforts and embolden our commitment much broader to secure a nation that's safe, sound, and free from the fear of disease.
The author, Bright Philip Donkor is the CSA'20 Online Journalist of the Year;
Social Commentator, Communication Practitioner, Columnist, and a Prolific Feature Writer.