The United Nations General Assembly in December 2006 declared the year 2008 as the International Year of Sanitation (IYS). In order to achieve the sanitation target of the Millennium Development Goals, yesterday November 19, was declared 'World Toilet Day'
The day was celebrated under the theme 'We Deserve Better'.
The overall success at improving sanitation and quality of life was linked to good toilet facilities and clean environment. Access to good toilet facilities is not a privilege but a fundamental human right.
Madam Basilia Nanbigne Communication person for the Coalition of NGO's in Water and Sanitation (CONIWAS) said poor sanitation, hygiene and unsafe water claims the lives of over 1.5 million children under the age of five every year around the world.
She noted that the poor toilet facilities in schools expose children to diseases, death, malnutrition and poverty. It also affects their learning abilities since they are exposed to all sorts of germs. Women and children who also go out at night to secluded areas to defecate are vulnerable to violence from bad people.
She also noted that according to the World Toilet Organisation, 2.5 billion people or 40 percent of the world population lack basic sanitation. Although a billion people in the world have access to sewage systems only 30 percent have their sewage 'treated in an environmentally acceptable way'. The rest flows straight into gutters, rivers or lakes.
'A clean toilet is any improved toilet or latrine facility that hygienically separates human excreta from human contact' she added.
She asked metropolitan, municipal and district Assemblies to enforce the building codes which require that every home has a toilet facility and to prosecute landlords who default in building toilet facilities in the homes.
Mr Joe Lambongang, Head of Policy and Partnerships for Water Aid Ghana, said Ghana's development programmes has to be linked to her sanitation policies and programmes.
He said in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goal's for sanitation and also tourism, open defecation at available open spaces and beaches that are strategically meant for recreation should be stopped. The economic cost to the country is very high and the food and beverage industry is most affected. He directed that 'the winner of the December 2008 elections should pursue strategic policies on sanitation to accelerate progress in the sector especially in the poor urban and rural communities.
Mr Lambongang asked Government to clearly define the indicators, terminologies and minimal standards for measuring what constitutes improved toilet and develop a time frame for all data collection institutions to adhere to these indicators.
He urged individual towns and communities to embark on their own initiatives to promote and build toilet facilities in their homes to reduce open defecation to prevent sanitation related crisis. This he said will go a long way to improve human capacity and reduce the overall poverty country.