The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has defined open defecation as the practice of going out in the fields, bushes, forests, open bodies of water or other open spaces rather than the toilet to defecate. In Africa, the situation of open defecation remains one of the most talked of banes as the United Nations estimates that 60 percent of the population do not have access to decent toilet facilities. This has contributed to the spread of bacterial diseases such as cholera, diarrhoea and polio infections.
In Ghana, five million people do not have access to any toilet facility, making the nation rank second for open defecation in Africa by the Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) chapter at the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The rural sector of Ghana’s Upper East Region has the highest open defecation rate of 89 percent, followed by Northern Region with 72 percent and Upper West Region with 71 percent. With most residents resorting to beaches and water bodies to defecate, the government has been met with yet another challenge as to the best way(s) to tackle such a development.
Uganda also stands highly affected by the scourge of open defecation. The Uganda Water and Environment Sector performance report in 2014/2015 shows that residents have to walk for more than a kilometer at night to find a place to ease themselves, especially in districts such as Nakapiripiriti.
“There is a rock one kilometer away from here where adults go to answer nature’s call but the children dig into the ground and bury their faeces afterwards,” residents of Nabilatuk village, Nakapiripiriti District, Maria Nakut revealed in an interview with AllAfrica.com.
The burden is most felt in Malawi, where rural folks face critical health problems as cholera and malaria in the wake of open defecation.
Be it an international crisis or even a cultural inclination, open defecation has attracted the intervention of several African governments in partnership with international bodies. The United Nations (UN) are making known their resolve to put a lasting end to the scourge of open defecation mainly through public awareness, enactment of legislation against the act, construction of public toilets among other interventions.
In Ghana for instance, UNICEF in collaboration with the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD) and the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), has launched a sanitation award scheme for Ghanaian journalists in a bid to end open defecation. Journalists are charged to report on cases of the phenomena and also use their medium to advocate against the act. In fact, the Ghanaian president, John Dramani Mahama, has revealed that his administration has secured $100 million facility for the provision of household toilets in the Greater Accra region – a move aimed at boosting sanitation in the country.
Even as Africa suffers the brunt of open defecation, the future remains bright in terms of the various innovative ways by which several African countries are putting their best together to bring the development to an end. But the question still remains as to how fast the practice of open defecation can be eradicated.