Cloud poo poo land

…one of the world’s most prominent development economists says Ghana is proving to be one of the strongest performers on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Africa and unlike some of its African counterparts is likely to fulfill them by the 2015 deadline.

Africa Rising: Jeffrey Sachs says Ghana’s future looks bright

When I first read this, I twitched a little. Jeffrey Sachs suggests that Ghana’s going to fulfil the MDGs by 2015. But is he including MDG 7? Specifically, 7.C? To halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation?

Look at this graph:

It’s World Bank data on the percentage of urban population in Sub-Saharan Africa with access to improved sanitation facilities. Ghana’s second to last. Behind Chad, Benin, Burkina Faso. Until 2000, Ghana was last in the table. According to one World Bank table, Ghana is ninth from last in terms of overall access to improved sanitation. In the world.

Improved sanitation doesn’t mean Dyson hand driers.

Access to improved sanitation facilities refers to the percentage of the population with at least adequate access to excreta disposal facilities that can effectively prevent human, animal, and insect contact with excreta. Improved facilities range from simple but protected pit latrines to flush toilets with a sewerage connection. To be effective, facilities must be correctly constructed and properly maintained.
World Bank

Figures on access to sanitation vary – and the percentage of the population with access to sanitation can be bumped up if you include shared facilities. Shared facilities mean public toilets or those shared by two or more households. In rural areas, 7% of the population with access to sanitation becomes 45% if you include shared facilities. In urban areas of Ghana, 70% of the population use shared sanitation. The WHO / UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) for Water Supply and Sanitation doesn’t accept that improved sanitation includes shared facilities. I can only go on my own limited experience of shared sanitation facilities in rural Ghana – the vast majority of them were in diabolical condition. Many shared toilet facilities are years old or broken, have been out of commission for years. With no education or leadership in managing their own sanitation needs, communities return to open defecation.

Ghana’s current plan is to plough a limited amount of public finance in to sanitation, with the vast majority of the capital expenditure required being covered by households. Under current plans, the Ghanaian government essentially pays to promote CLTS (Community Led Total Sanitation) schemes in rural areas and assist rural banks and microfinance providers in offering finance options to households. In short, the Ghanaian government isn’t paying for any toilets, but they’ll put up adverts telling you to build your own, and point you towards loans to pay for them. In urban areas, there aren’t even any CLTS schemes – so one fewer structure in place to promote, support and push forward sanitation programmes, and only the private sector in a position to deal with human waste – for a price.

Ghana’s not alone. Even the UN admits that “with half the population of developing regions without sanitation, the 2015 [MDG] target appears to be out of reach”. Massive amounts of education, community engagement and support are needed to achieve wider access to improved sanitation in Ghana, in both urban and rural areas. It won’t happen by 2015. If you believe it will, you really do live in cloud poo poo land.