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WASHing practices in Ghana improve family health

Having a dependable source of safe water improves the health of mothers and children throughout the developing world.

President Mahama and Canadian High Commissioner Thornley celebrate a new water facility funded by Canada that provides a pump house, pipe-distribution centre, overhead tanks and water-collection points for a Ghanaian community.

Hand-washing with soap using the simple design of a “Tippy Tap” helps keep this child from getting sick.

For Canada, WASH can refer to its Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in Disaster-Prone Communities project.  It also signals Canada’s commitment and understanding about how access to a safe water source greatly improves the health of mothers and children in Ghana and throughout the developing world.

Without safe drinking water and access to proper sanitation, people who live in remote areas of northern Ghana are more susceptible to waterborne diseases such as diarrhea and other infections, and the health of children younger than five years old is particularly at risk.

Since 1973, Canada has been working in northern Ghana to improve this situation. Canada has helped provide potable water to an estimated 1.4 million Ghanaians. These efforts have contributed to Ghana’s meeting one of its Millennium Development Goals: increasing the percentage of Ghanaians with access to safe drinking water, from 54 percent in 1990 to 87 percent in 2012.  Canada’s support not only played a central role in the eradication of guinea worm in 2011, but it also helped local communities find innovative ways to harvest and preserve precious water resources in Ghana’s arid northern region.

Some of the results achieved through past WASH projects have led to the development and implementation of other projects in the region that also contribute to health gains.  For example, through the Northern Region Small Towns Water and Sanitation Project (NORST), implemented in partnership with the Government of Ghana and with support from Cowater International Inc., another 125,000 people will have access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities by the end of 2016.  Easier access to water achieves other results as well.  Young girls, who typically fetch the water, used to take two to six hours doing so, but now they can complete this task in 15 minutes thanks to NORST. Having extra time each day means more of these girls can now attend school.

In the words of Nicholas Waake, a local leader in the Tatale district, NORST “has brought joy and relief for the people in the area.”  In
2014, at the commissioning of a water system in Bunkpurugu, Canada received high praise from Ghana’s President, John Mahama, who said, “By providing water, Canada is saving lives in Ghana.”

Canada is also partnering with UNICEF to enhance WASH services in schools and communities in 5 of Ghana’s 10 regions. Like the others, this initiative reinforces Canada’s maternal, newborn and child health priorities. Focusing on the health needs of children, the project has made important strides to curb the practice of open defecation.  The project also supports the use of simple technologies, such as the locally sourced "Tippy Tap" structure, to increase the practice of hand-washing with soap in schools. Encouraging this practice in schools helps prevent diseases such as diarrhea and infections.

In Ghana, as in many other developing countries, Canada is actively helping every woman and every child have healthy and productive lives.

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