Poor sanitation costs Ghana 290 million dollars each year, representing 1.6 per cent of National Gross Domestic Product,
This is contained in a study by the Environmental Health and Sanitation Directorate of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD).
According to the Directorate, whilst open defecation costs Ghana 79 million per year, 215 million dollars are lost each year as a result of premature death due to poor water, sanitation and hygiene.
Mr Kweku Quansah, official at the Directorate, made these known when Plan Ghana, a non-governmental organization (NGO), held a four-day workshop to kick start the implementation of the Testing Modified Community Led Sanitation (CLTS) Scalability project in Accra,
The CLTS that was initiated by the NGO in collaboration with stakeholders in sanitation with grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, would be implemented in Ghana, Kenya and Ethiopia on different models.
Mr Quansah noted that Ghana loses 19 million dollars each year in access time for open defecation and explained that “each opened defecating person spends 2.5 days every year finding an obscure place to hide leading to economic losses”.
He said 1.5 million dollars were lost each year due to productivity losses whilst 54 million dollars are spent each year on health care, treating diarrhoea and its consequences for other diseases like respiratory infections and malaria.
Mr Quansah said approximately, 13,900 Ghanaian adults and 5,100 children under 5 years die each year from diarrhoea and nearly 90 per cent of which is directly attributed to sanitation and water problems.
The study also revealed that 4.63 million Ghanaians have no latrines at all and defecate in the open whilst 16.34 Million of Ghanaians use unsanitary or shared latrines.
Mr Quansah noted that with the current sanitation, coverage of 14 per cent and open defecation, it will be difficult to meet the Millennium Development Goal on sanitation, which has a target of 54 per cent, if attitudes were not changed.
A person in Upper East was 27 times less likely to use a latrine as a person in Ashanti Region. For regional disparity on open defecation, Upper East Region recorded 82 per cent, Upper West Region 79 per cent, Northern Region 31 per cent, Volta Region 31 per cent and Central Region 18 per cent.
The Western Region recorded 13 per cent, eight per cent for Greater Accra Region, six per cent for Eastern Region, six per cent for Brong Ahafo Region and Ashanti Region three per cent of open defecation.
Mr Quansah explained that with barely three more years to reach 2015, eliminating the practice of open defecation will only require sensitizing Ghanaians to acquire and use only latrines and improved toilet facilities, and not any sophisticated and complicated facilities or huge money.
“Unfortunately, only nine per cent of the population has unimproved toilet facility whilst 19 per cent covered open defecation and 58 per cent have shared toilet facility”, he said.
Mr Quansah said sanitation plays a key role in national development as it affects the quality of life and productivity of the population.
He said:“With a little effort, we will achieve the 54 per cent target of the MDG on sanitation. All we need is to intensify our advocacy, show commitment and enforce our laws at all levels”. GNA