Beginning next year, the government, in collaboration with its development partners and the private sector, will commit $200 million annually in budgetary allocations towards sanitation and water improvements to meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets.
The government will commit additional allocations of $150million annually, towards hygienic treatment and disposal of septic and faecal sludge, as well as sullage and storm water management. It will also make allocations up to the threshold of 0.5 per cent of the GDP to cover capacity building for hygiene education including proper hand-washing methods, country-wide outreach of community-led total sanitation, and general enhancement of enabling elements.
These commitments are contained in a document christened, 'Ghana Compact on Sanitation and Water For All,' a global framework for action on water and sanitation which was launched by Vice-President John Mahama in Accra yesterday.
The Ghana compact, which aims to increase political prioritization and commitment on sanitation and water, is the first to be launched in any sub-Sahara African country.
Under it, the government will also undertake to strengthen and enhance the capacity of the Environmental Health and Sanitation Directorate and the Water Directorate with increased budget allocations in the 2011 budget statement.
Vice-President Mahama described the initiative as a "renewal of our commitment to work together to tackle the challenge that continues to be posed by the sanitation and water situation in our country."
He said data from the country's health facilities indicated that more than 60 per cent of the 10 top diseases that were reported from health delivery facilities were sanitation and water-related, of which malaria and diarrhoeal diseases were top most.
"The current state of sanitation does not only pose a threat to our national development agenda, but also towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and the sustainability of the National Health Insurance Scheme," he said.
The Vice-President said unlike water, it was likely that the country might miss the sanitation target of the MDGs which stipulated that half of the population of the country should have access to basic sanitation by 2015.
He said, however, that the situation should spur the country on to work harder to achieve the target.
He said the metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies would be encouraged to embark upon major multi-sectoral collaborations with the view to improving sanitation while targeting safe food and appropriate disposal of waste.
"We will ensure that district assemblies develop relevant regulations and also enforce them. To that end, a national Strategy and action Plan has been developed by the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development to be launched soon," he said.
An investment plan for sanitation had reached an advanced stage of preparation as a further demonstration of the government's commitment to the sector, he said and called for an urgent attitudinal shift among the population to increase awareness of the direct link between sanitation and personal hygiene and the quality of their health.
He also advocated the need for the private sector to be allowed and regulated to go into pay-toilet facilities.
"With the ongoing toilet wars between political activists, it is obvious the public-pay toilet business is profitable," Mr. Mahama said.
Water Resources, Works and Housing Minister Alban Bagbin said the initiative as captured in the compact demonstrated the government's resolve and commitment to the framework and principles of water and sanitation for all.
It was also in line with the target to achieve 70 per cent of potable water supply by 2015, Mr. Bagbin said but stressed that the country needed to tighten its belt to fast-track efforts towards the 63 per cent sanitation mark.
"We can banish poverty out of Ghana if we can improve access to water and sanitation," he said.