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12.05.2015 Opinion

National Sanitation Day: Brilliant Idea, Poorly Executed

By GNA
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Dormaa-Ahenkro, May 12, GNA - Observing the manner in which the National Sanitation Day exercise has been carried out in totality in the Dormaa Municipality as a journalist, has raised critical issues of varied dimensions.

Issues such as organization, logistical challenge, publicity, apathy, and suitability of the day to hold the exercise in the Municipality, have persistently and consistently come up as a very big challenge to authorities here as they tried in desperate resolve often under undue pressure in their bid to confront the canker.

Notwithstanding, the issue of attaching seriousness to the sanitation exercise is not the sole concern of political leaders, but has also become a major topic frequently discussed among prominent personalities including chiefs in Dormaa - Ahenkro on local radio platforms and at other fora.

Mr. Gordon Asubonteng, the Municipal Chief Executive, for instance, has time without number, made a clarion call to the populace emphasizing the need for all to participate.

Yet people still continue to show apathy towards the programme.

As a way of expressing further commitment to the whole exercise, Municipal authorities have sometimes gone the extra mile and to the extend of writing formal letters to all heads of departments, civil society groups, members of the security services, second cycle institutions and tertiary institutions to organize their students and staff members to participate in the programme, a week or two before the actual date of the exercise is due.

Despite these efforts, the attendance of such persons leaves much to be desired.

Most at times neither the heads of department nor their staff members would respond to the request to attend the national sanitation day programme as expected by officials, except few others.

On such occasions when clean ups have been conducted, inhabitants were found virtually stacked in their households going about their household chores.

This has been intricately linked to passitivity, as only a handful of households and churches manage to organize the clean-up in their neighbourhoods.

In terms of publicity, the Municipal Assembly's financial position is quite precarious with most projects funded through Urban Development Grant and the District Development Fund(DDF) currently.

The assembly's share of the Common Fund for this year as well as that for the third and fourth quarters of last year, have still not been released.

The problem is not peculiar with the Municipality alone, but also other Districts and Municipalities across the country.

This development has seriously affected and undermined the pace of execution of development projects, including the construction of the Municipal Assembly Office Building, the Aduana Town Hall Project and the Municipal Guest House, to mention but a few.

Mr. Maxwell Mensah, the Deputy Coordinating Director, said there's nothing the Assembly can do about the low publicity phenomenon.

'We send letters to churches, schools, and other groups inviting them to assist in the effort but most of them don't turn up.

We can also not do publicity all round the month every month.

We need to understand that it's the attitude of the indigenes that has resulted in the level of apathy we 're witnessing.

We make radio announcements and they don't respond.

So what else can we do. Part of the problem is, there are no laws to sanction non-compliants', he added

Pertinent to the above obstacle is the issue of logistical shortfall.

Logistics, equipment and materials such as brooms, wheel barrows, shovels, tricycles, refuse tracks, water tankers which are extremely needed to undertake the exercise are often in short supply.

Very few of such items are brought by the Municipal Assembly to augment those which are provided by Zoomlion and other volunteers.

More often than not, the number of volunteers who turned up for the exercise far outnumber the quantity of logistics made available.

This problem is what has seriously undermined and bred idle chatters into the national sanitation exercise in the Dormaa Municipality which authorities hadn't even taken serious notice of, or even if they have, had failed to do something concrete to decisively deal with the situation.

There is a saying, 'the devil finds work for the idle hands'.

If people are equipped or given the needed tools to work with, I, do not think they will become idle and indulge in useless ventures.

This problem is further exacerbated by the lack of vehicles/buses to convey these non-performing volunteers to other areas of the Municipality to get them busy on a portion of land with tons of garbage/refuse.

One time, I had boldly confronted, Mr. Gordon Asubonteng, the Municipal Chief Executive about the underlying problem of logistics.

He had responded, 'it is a very normal thing experienced at the threshold of every major undertaking and expressed the hope that with time things would improve'.

I realized from his reply that the problem is far from being over.

At least it would take a long while, unless institutional support comes to the rescue.

In spite of these bottlenecks, he is one of those who is always very passionate and upbeat about the whole process, never ceasing to whip up public interest in the exercise at any time on radio or any other platform he finds himself.

Evident to the poor sanitation management is the issue of a refuse site at a portion of the Masu road not far from the premises of the Lighthouse Chapel International, Dormaa - Ahenkro Main Branch.

In spite of the series of national sanitation exercises which had been held in the Municipality, the site is completely littered with tons of garbage unattended to for several months now.

It is such an unpleasant site to see.
The question which readily comes to mind is, exactly what has all these series of sanitation exercises done to that portion of that road with that refuse and garbage in the Municipality? It's extremely regrettable that in spite of this underlying problem, the national sanitation exercise could be reduced to a forum of prolonged chatting and gossiping by majority of the volunteers who partake in the activity.

This behaviour absolutely defeats the national agenda and precious time is wasted.

The issue of finding an appropriate or suitable day on which to organize the exercise to garner massive public support at a point became a matter of great concern to Municipal authorities.

Funeral, an important customary and traditional rite of the people form a greater percentage of their social - cultural lifestyle.

Any time a sanitation exercise had clashed with a weekend fraught with funeral activities, there's very minimal patronage, or people hardly join the campaign. Not even taxi and commercial drivers.

This had adversely affected the drive and the spirit of the exercise.

Authorities have not been able to come to a conclusion on this matter whether or not to change Saturday as the day for holding the exercise in the Municipality as yet. For now, all options remain unclear and undecided.

Dealing with the sanitation problem would require pragmatic, innovative ideas and strategies.

As already pointed out, there should be a mechanism or strategy to get people interested in the whole deal.

Rewards or prizes, for instance, could be given to people who participate regularly in the programme and had made significant contributions in clearing filth, or addressing major sanitation challenges in their areas or neighbourhoods within a specific time frame.

If a company like Vodafone can develop a television programme, Healthline, as part of its corporate social responsibility, to address critical health issues facing people in certain communities and go to the extend of supporting such persons in both financial and material terms, how much less a whole government for a national sanitation exercise?

Let us move far away from just inviting the President and his Vice to grace the sanition exercise at certain locations as experienced on the first Saturday of the month, and go the extra mile to reward people who regularly participate in the exercise and make significant impact and contribution to it, as a way of curbing and dealing drastically with the issue of apathy which often characterizes the programme.

When someone is appreciated for his contributions, others would want to emulate his example and several others would later be spurred on to follow suit.

This is, however, not to say the presence of such high profile individuals is not necessary.

It is somewhat a step ahead in the process.
Laws could be enacted to sanction and prosecute those who fall foul to it by deliberately refusing to participate to deter others from copying such negative and unpatriotic behaviours.

Local radio stations can allot air time to officials of the Assembly to sensitize and talk about the sanitation programme. This create some level of awareness among the populace and infuse in them a sense of urgency which backs collective resolve to fight the canker.

The central government can also do its part by ensuring early and timely release of the District Assemblies Common Fund(DACF) to enable the Assemblies plan and budget for the exercise on publicity as well as other logistics for the exercise.

Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) can also set aside part of their budgetary allocation for the purchase of required materials in support of the campaign.

The materials could help rid the exercise of idle chatters and bring on board serious hands to contribute to set goals and make the National Sanitation Day programme a very big success in the Municipality.

A GNA Feature by Robert Tachie Menson Jnr

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