Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Poverty report: Ghana's toilets are not disability accessible

From AllAfrica.com:

ACCRA, Ghana — It is estimated that 10% of Ghana's population suffer from some form of disability with the blind, deaf and physically disabled people being the most visible. According to the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS) papers, the 10% of the population living with disabilities are indeed amongst the poorest of the poor.

In a 2007 publication, SEND-Ghana noted that poverty of persons with disability (PWDs) is characterized by landlessness, unemployment, illiteracy, homelessness and political powerlessness.

It is reasonable to suggest that the disabled, being poor, would find it most difficult to put up their own homes with toilets. They may rent rooms, live with relatives or even friends. In worst case scenarios, some PWDs are forced to become squatters or slum dwellers.

The big question is whether they will have access to decent toilets to exercise a very important human right - to empty their bowels. The 2000 Population and Housing Census estimated that more than 20% of Ghanaians do not have any form of latrines and therefore resort to open defaecation. The Census established that 31.45% of households in Ghana use public latrines as compared to 8.5% using Water Closet. 22% use pit latrines while 6.9% utilize KVIP. Bucket or pan latrine serves 4% while 6.9% of the population attends nature's call in other people's houses.

The figures from the Census show that Ghana is far from achieving targets set in the MLGRD's Environmental Sanitation Policy of 1999. the policy is unequivocal on households and public toilets; the policy states that at least 90% of the population should have access to acceptable domestic toilet while the remaining 10% should have access to hygienic public toilets.

While the world observed 'Toilet Day' on November 19, Ghana marked the day under the theme "Stop Open defaecation, use Toilets." Two deputy ministers - Hon Elvis Afriyie Ankrah of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD) and Dr Hanna Bissiw of the Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing - symbolically used the East Ayawaso Sub Metro (AMA) Toilet No 12B.

After them, Mr Alexander Tetteh, Executive Director, Centre for Employment of Persons With Disabilities and a physically disabled person, also tried to use the facility which has an entrance measuring a yard-and-a-quarter. Alas! He was not able to use it. It was simply inaccessible. There was no ramp for his wheelchair to go over.

And even if he was able to entre the facility, he could not have squatted to "poopoo." So for many people like Mr Tetteh, there are obvious questions about the existence of an all-encompassing sanitation policy. The current design of the majority of public toilets ensures that PWDs who have no access to toilets are denied their right to empty their bowels.

Mr Tetteh expressed his frustration to media personnel. He said it was worrying that the facility was not a water closet. He noted that similar facilities like "this are all over." He called on authorities to make public toilets disability-friendly.

His call resonates with the provisions of the Persons With Disability Act, 2006 (Act 715). Section 60 of the Act stipulates, "The owner or occupier of an existing building to which the public has access shall within ten years of the commencement of this Act make the building accessible to and available for use by a person with disability."

The Act is more than three years old; only seven years remain for meeting the moratorium. It is unclear when this particular toilet facility was provided but three years is certainly enough time to have noticed the defect in the facility.

In 2007, SEND-Ghana noted that safety measures and interventions were included in the GPRS II but many new public physical infrastructures were not disability friendly. "For example they do not have facilities for persons utilizing wheel chairs to enter unassisted."

SEND-Ghana points out that the need for government to enforce policies on disabled access to physical infrastructure to public facilities cannot be overemphasized. "We demand that government put in place an appropriate monitoring system to ensure that...all public buildings have disability friendly toilets, entrance and exit facilities."