A Two-Pronged Problem
Sekondi-Takoradi Metropolitan Assembly (STMA), an assembly of twin cities nestled on Ghana’s southern coast, has had long-standing problems with sanitation in its slum communities. In the metropolis, 70% of houses lack a toilet and other basic sanitary facilities.
This issue forks into two related concerns. The first is linked directly to sanitation, without sufficient access to toilets, people resort to open defecation, and also have to make use of local toilet facilities. Both of these make it very difficult to prevent regular outbreaks of cholera and other potentially deadly diseases. The second related problem is how needing to rely on public toilet facilities can leave people especially vulnerable to crime — particularly when they need to walk along unlit roads at night.
Improving access to toilets and other sanitation facilities dramatically heightens the safety and health of the inhabitants of the Sekondi-Takoradi slum areas.
Putting Citizen Engagement In the Driving Seat
Sekondi-Takoradi has shown in earlier policy innovations that it takes seriously the principles of open government, and has taken steps to integrate its residents in the policy-development process. Because of this, it was selected as a pilot participant in OGP’s local program in 2016.
Sekondi-Takoradi is currently implementing the commitments in its second action plan (2018-2020), with a focus on developing citizen engagement programs. The commitment, carried over from the first action plan, to rectify the inadequate access to sanitation facilities, utilizes a community-engagement focussed approach.
Following consultations with civil society, community leaders, trade unions, and business leaders, the government turned to the wider public to hear from its citizens through established channels. This outreach resulted in an action plan that represented people’s concerns and tackled pressing problems faced by the community.
The STMA has bylaws that make it mandatory for every household to have its own toilet, and the commitment is to bring the standards up to that legal obligation.
Landlords and Residents, Community Caring for the Community
A partnership was formed with Landlord/Resident associations to map out where new sanitation facilities were needed and to coordinate their installation. This partnership allowed residents to flag up where the facilities were insufficient and to apply pressure to landlords to meet their legal obligations.
These citizen engagement methods also helped to identify problem areas with associated crime, so that streetlights were installed across the city. Additionally, a community policing program was established, with 61 volunteers being trained to improve the safety and security of their neighbourhoods. This has been accompanied by campaigns to create awareness of how community-originated and community-focussed approaches lead to significant advances in the quality of services they receive and the impact on crime. As part of the campaign launch by the Mayor of Sekondi-Takoradi, a live radio programme carried by Skyy Power FM was held at Ngyeresia where key officers took turns to discuss how we can collectively contribute to end open defecation in the metropolis. In line with the campaign, three billboards have been mounted (at Ngyeresia, Nkotompo and New Takoradi), 1,000 posters and 1,500 flyers have been developed and currently being distributed across the Metropolis to create awareness on the campaign to end open defecation.
The Ball Keeps Rolling On Sanitation
Advances have been made, both in the provision of toilets, and also to the collaborative relationship between the government and its citizens. Building on this relationship, the reviewer recommends broadening its scope to further improve sanitation in these districts. This can be achieved by improvements to gutter and drain maintenance, better provision of litter bins, and the enforcement of by-laws for sanitation violations. Beyond that, the civil society and public partners could be engaged to develop guidelines, and to monitor new development planning, to ensure that proper sanitation standards are implemented in their construction.
The methods of engagement on the issue of sanitation has brought together different stakeholders to develop policy strategies that take account of the needs of the public, and by doing so, ensures that the new developments work for them.
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