The Voice for Change (V4C) partnership programme continues to build the capacities of communities within the Awutu-Senya East Municipal Assembly (ASEMA) in the Central Region in evidence-based advocacy on hygiene and sanitation.
At the latest forum organised by Intervention Forum (IF), a non-governmental organisation, the citizens were educated on the Environmental Sanitation Policy, which outlines the strategies, roles and responsibilities of district and sub-district actors.

Addressing the citizenry at Kasoa on the policy, Mr Yaw Felix Jeffrey Agyei Amakye, Lecturer at the Institute of Local Government Studies (ILGS), Madina, Accra, on spoke on the Environmental Sanitation Policy, expressed the need for the country to develop and maintain a clean, safe and pleasant physical and natural environment in all human settlements.
He said there was a linkage between poor environmental sanitation and human health, adding that most of the country’s problems were due to defective environment which in turn robbed people of their health.

According to him, sanitation is among the powerful drivers of a nation’s development, as it affects the quality of life and productivity.
He said markets should be a place where people could enter and leave safely “and not a place where we buy diseases”.

Mr Amakye said food hygiene and the cooking environment must be properly observed.
He said the environmental sanitation policy areas revolved around capacity development, information education and communication, legislation and regulation and it was important to make laws to enforce them.

Mr Amakye noted that the environmental sanitation and hygiene laws were not working the way they ought to, hence the need for the power to effect change at the district level with local government structures such as the district assemblies, zonal councils, unit committees and other stakeholders.
He also touched on the broad policy principles such as environmental sanitation services as a public and economic good, polluter pays principle, participatory decisions, equity and gender sensitivity, recognising indigenous knowledge and community participation.

He educated the participants on the roles and responsibilities of the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs), such as waste management and public health management, environmental monitoring, provision of works related to environmental sanitation facilities, planning, monitoring and public relations.
Mr Amakye said the private sector must of necessity provide the bulk of environmental sanitation under the supervision of the MMDAs.

He discussed the roles of community-based organisations, and civil society organisations (CSOs), the community and key strategies under the District Environmental Sanitation Strategy and Action Plan (DESSAP) and the Rural Sanitation Model Strategy (RSMS).
He bemoaned the implementation and financing gaps such as the low involvement of private sector actors such as the banks, microfinance institutions and private enterprises, inadequate data on sanitation and hygiene as well as the low involvement of vulnerable groups such as women, youth groups, persons with disabilities and the poor and aged.

The V4C project is an evidence-based advocacy programme being implemented by SNV (Netherlands Development Organisation) in collaboration with the International Food and Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (DGIS).
The Ghana WASH component of the project, which is basically and advocacy one, and dubbed: ‘Ghana Sanitation and Hygiene for all (SH4ALL), is directed at intensifying the voice of CSOs and citizenry to demand more equitable, affordable and sustainable sanitation and hygiene services and improved policy implementation at the district level.

The forum engaged officials of the Awutu Senya East Municipal Assembly (ASEMA), traditional authorities, waste management companies, microfinance institutions and banks, community-based organisations, communities, assembly members and unit committees and the media.
IF, which has worked over a decade to improve the circumstances of deprived rural communities through capacity building programmes, is one of four local implementing partner civil society organisations under the WASH component tasked to implement the project in the ASEMA.

Some participants expressed varying opinions on the usefulness of the programme.
Isaac A. Tettey, Municipal Planning Officer spoke on challenges faced by the assembly with regard to finance.
He said the assembly had lots of issues to address but scarce resources were hampering their implementation.

‘’If the inflows don’t come, it is difficult to implement our programmes. We have problems with revenue generation as there are no donor interventions,’’ he said.
According to Mr Tettey, the assembly had for the past four years not received any DDF and another issue is the lack of property valuation from which the assembly could boost its revenue, and expressed the hope that the assembly’s collaboration with V4C would provide some counterpart funding for the assembly’s programme.
Andrews Addo Quaynor, Assemblyman for Ofaakor, was quite appreciative of the V4C programme.

‘’It’s a nice programme to draw attention to sanitation issues in our community but there is the need for more education. We will start on our own and find out how we can help IF to reach the citizenry in our communities.’’
Mr Godson Mawutor Lodo, Municipal Environmental Health Officer, Kasoa, said the programme was very successful, which some of them had been yearning for.
‘’The programme is very timely and in the right direction, and it is going to change the lifestyle of people,” he said.

Asked what role he would play in facilitating the V4C programme, Mr Lodo said he saw himself as a lead facilitator when it came to the issue of sanitation.
He however saw lack of finance as a constraint to the ASEMA which had lots of programmes to implement. He said the coming on board of V4C would help address the problem of sanitation in the Municipality.

Ms Vida Mensah, Trader, expressed satisfaction with the V4C programme.
Speaking in an interview, Mr Eric Dadson, student of the school of Public Heath, University of Ghana, Legon, said he found the forum to be very useful.
‘’It is useful, it is relevant in the scheme of affairs in tackling sanitation. Looking at the core pillars, advocacy is key. So if you have a group targeting key stakeholders and empowering them with information to be able to join the advocacy effort, then I am sure we will have a worthy cause.

‘’I think it is a worthy cause, which must be sustained, and I encourage the group to go all out and do more beyond the borders of this municipality if they have the means and support. So, I think it is something that should cut across all spheres of society,’’ he said.
Madam Grace Hanson Eshun, resident of Adam Nana at Kasoa, said many people understood the issues on sanitation and health but did not know where to start from, adding: “But V4C programme is going to turn the image of Ghana round.”

‘’If you are single, it doesn’t go far but with what I have learnt today and my past experience as Secretary of Landlords Associations, I shall be able to give advice on a number of issues.
“As a resident of Adam Nana, the issues we have are poor drainage, illegal structures, poor sanitation, gambling and others. I think it was something personally I consider as a burden on me so this is appropriate for me.

“I will start with my church and associations in my area and places outside my community. I think I will share with them what I have learnt here. I am also running a reading camp for children. I will let them know the essence of hygiene. I can do more; when the time comes, I will do something extra.’’