UN Ghana Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Support Programme
At a press briefing on the UN 2023 Water Conference, the UN in Ghana calls for an increase in public finance and more private sector investment in WASH.
Please allow me to begin by quoting the message of UN Secretary General Mr. António Guterres on the eve of World Water Day
“Water is the lifeblood of our world. From health and nutrition to education and infrastructure, water is vital to every aspect of human survival and well-being, and the economic development and prosperity of every nation”.
However, this fundamental human right is not within the reach of many. According to WHO/UNICEF Global WASH Monitoring Report, today, 1 in 4 people – 2 billion people – around the world lack safely managed drinking water.
Close to 1.8 billion people either defecate in the open or use filthy and broken toilets.
44% wastewater flow back into nature untreated, with disastrous health and environmental consequences. In short, our world is off track to reaching the goal of safely managed water and sanitation for all by 2030.
Sub-Sharan Africa is far behind the Global average; where over 1 in 3 people still rely on unprotected water sources (1 in 4 Global) and 2 in 3 use unsafe sanitation facilities (1 in 5 Global) including close to 1 in 5 defecating in the open.
For Ghana, the country has done well in water with 88% people accessing basic service (close to the global average of 90%), and 42% accessing safely managed water, far behind the global average of 74%, but higher than the Sub-Saharan average of 30%
However, the sanitation situation in Ghana is very poor, with only 25% having access to basic services, about 57% using shared or public facilities and 18% still defecating in open defecation. Poor sanitation conditions pose serious public health risks.
In Ghana, according to WHO, 7,653 deaths were caused by WASH related illness in 2019, 21 people per day, almost one person every hour dying from preventable WASH-related diseases.
As world leaders meet in the historic UN Water Conference in New York on March 22nd, second of its kind since 1977. It is worth noting that the World Population has doubled in these 46 years from 4.2 billion to over 8 billion and importantly Ghana’s population increased by 3-fold from 10.8 M in 1977 to over 32 M in 2022.
While there are reasons to celebrate the remarkable achievements the World has made in improving access to water and sanitation, the progress made so far is generally slow and highly inequitable, especially for the Sub-Saharan Africa.
Constantly increasing population, shrinking water resources due to environmental degradation, climate change and unsustainable use is putting much pressure on water resources.
According to UNICEF, A triple threat of water-related crises is endangering the lives of 190 million children alone in 10 African countries that are at the highest risk from a convergence of three water-related threats; “inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene; burden of WASH related diseases; and threats of climate change”
This threat is most acute in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and Somalia, making West and Central Africa the World's most water-insecure and climate-impacted regions, according to the analysis.
Many of these countries, particularly in the Sahel, are also facing instability and armed conflict, further aggravating children’s access to clean water and sanitation.
For example, Burkina Faso has been facing attacks on water facilities as a tactic to displace communities. Fifty-eight water points were attacked in 2022, increased from 21 in 2021. As a result, more than 830,000 people – over half of whom are children – lost access to safe drinking water in 2022.
Even though Ghana is not among the 10 Triple Threat WASH Crisis countries, due to its proximity to the Sahel region and position as a safe haven for people displaced from the Sahel,, it is going to be heavily affected, especially the Northern Regions.
What UN is doing in the WASH Sector in Ghana?
The UN in Ghana is supporting the Government to realize access to safe and sustainable WASH services by all, including children and their families through a three-pronged approach:
- System strengthening through evidence-based policy, strategy and guidelines
- Institutional capacity building to implement policies and strategies & monitoring progress
- Modeling innovative service delivery approaches and supporting their scale-up.
The overarching aim of UN in Ghana is to ensure, “No child goes to school without functioning WASH facilities, and No women have to give birth in health facility without functioning toilets and washrooms”.
In this regard, UNICEF and WHO have successfully advocated for the integration of WASH in health facilities, using WASH as key support for Infection Prevention Control (IPC) to improve maternal and child health outcomes. Similar approach is being adopted in schools.
UN will model sustainable infrastructure in at least 100 health facilities and 100 schools in the next 3 years.
Climate change is affecting access to water in several parts of Ghana, especially in the North. The UN is supporting the government to assess the climate related risks to WASH infrastructure. A study is underway to map-out all the risks faced by WASH infrastructure and services. The findings will help develop the Operational Guidelines and Minimum Standards for Climate and Shock Resilient WASH Solutions in Ghana.
To strengthen the capacity of institutions and communities to cope with the potential Sahel spill-over in bordering districts of Burkina Faso, the UN in Ghana led by UNICEF, is working in six districts in upper east and upper west to improve preparedness by rehabilitating poorly functioning WASH infrastructures in health and education institutions and communities.
On data and evidence for financial planning and advocacy for WASH, 3 Rounds of WASH Financial Accounts (WASH Fin Tracking) have been completed since 2010 to generate evidence for country systems to support financial planning, programming, and effective use of resources to improve WASH services delivery.
For National Water Policy, UN supported the review of the 2007 policy considering major cross-cutting issues such as climate change, environmental degradation pollution, private sector participation and gender and youth engagements.
Sector Information System: UN supported the development of 14 Golden Indicators to measure the SDG 6 targets. A digital platform for sector information system has been established by MSWR recently. Further support is required to establish data collection and verification systems at MDA levels for operationalizing SIS.
Expand Innovative Financing: Building on the successful modeling of a revolving loan scheme to finance lower-income households for sanitation in Tamale, Ho and Ashaiman, UN is supporting the government to expand the innovative scheme to other part of the country such as Kumasi, Cape Coast and Elmina.
Ending open defecation and accelerating progress in Safely Managed Sanitation: UN under the leadership of UNICEF is supporting the development of National Open Defecation Free Action Plan, and Safely Managed Sanitation Strategy. UN will support in modeling these strategies in 3-5 MMDAs reaching at least 100,000 people with safely managed sanitation in next three years, before it is scaled up nationwide.
Strengthening Private Sector Participation: Private sectors are the key players for delivering sustainable WASH services in communities. In this regard, UN is supporting government to model a Public Private Partnership (PPP) approach in providing WASH services in low-income urban communities of Accra, Kumasi, Tamale, Ho, Cape Coast and Elmina, especially in liquid waste management.
Current public sector investment in WASH is estimated to be around $100 M per year, only a fraction of what is needed to achieve SDG 6 targets by 2030.
Access to water and sanitation are human rights and the building blocks for sustainable growth of any society. For the country’s balanced growth, Ghana needs to accelerate access to safely managed water and sanitation.
In this regard, we urge government to increase public finance in WASH and create an enabling environment for private sector and users to invest more in sustainable water and sanitation services.
The WASH situation of the Northern Regions is much worse compared to the national average; the regions are also facing the potential crisis of the Sahel spill-over. It is important to accelerate water and sanitation in these regions, part of the Resilience Building.
The UN in Ghana has a history of strong partnership building with Government and private sectors. The UN is also known for its ability to bring together key partners on innovation and operational research for evidence generation.
Going forward, the UN will continue to support the Government of Ghana in enhancing evidence-based policies and strategies, and capacity-building of government institutions and communities to scale-up proven approaches in WASH.
Thank you for your attention.
 WHO. Burden of disease. SDG 3.92 – Mortality rate attributed to unsafe water, sanitation, and lack of hygiene (exposure to unsafe Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for All (WASH)). https://apps.who.int/gho/data/view.main.SDGWSHBOD392v