Ghana is world's 7th dirtiest country and other interesting insights from sanitation update

Only one in eight Ghanaians regularly wash their hands. Ethiopia achieved largest improvement, over five times greater than the regional average.

A JOINT World Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) sanitation report has rated Ghana as the world’s 7th worst performing country.

The new report released on Tuesday says that the challenge to access improved sanitation is starker in Ghana, “which has slipped even further amongst the worst performing countries, now ranked 7th worst globally.” 

The Joint Monitoring Programme report dubbed “Progress on Sanitation and Drinking Water: 2015 Update and MDG Assessment”, is a collaborative effort between the WHO and UNICEF. 

Ghana, currently with a sanitation coverage of 15%, is ranked after South Sudan, which has a 7% coverage, Niger with 11%, Chad, Madagascar and Togo with 12%; and Sierra Leone, which has a 13% access to household toilets - the measurement used for the ranking. 

It also said that while in Ghana about 7,500 children die annually from diarrhoea, which is linked to unsafe drinking water, poor sanitation, or poor hygiene, only one in eight Ghanaians regularly wash their hands, a situation which aggravates outbreaks such as cholera. 

Ghana is far from being the only one grappling with dirty problems. Almost 700 million people missed the sanitation target with only 95 countries meeting it. 

This incredibly poor lack of progress in sanitation is just one of several interesting facts from the report:

Northern Africa and sub-Saharan Africa did not meet the MDG drinking water target

The Millennium Development Goals (MDG) target called for the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water to be halved between 1990 and 2015.

But still today, significant proportions of people living in Africa are using rivers, lakes, ponds and irrigation canals as their main source of drinking water. Seven out of ten of the 159 million people relying on water taken directly from rivers, lakes and other surface waters live in sub-Saharan Africa, eight times more than any other region.

Sub-Saharan Africa missed drinking water target but still showed dramatic increases 

Sub-Saharan Africa fell short of the MDG target but still achieved a 20% increase in the use of improved sources of drinking water. This meant that 427 million people gained access during the MDG period – an average of 47,000 people per day for 25 years.

The number of people practising open defecation has actually increased in sub-Saharan Africa over the MDG period 

During the MDG period, the elimination of public pooping was increasingly recognised as a top priority for improving health, nutrition and productivity of developing country populations. The region now accounts for a greater share of the global total than in 1990 with all other regions recorded a reduction. 

Ethiopia achieved the largest decrease in the proportion of the population practising open defecation

Ethiopia achieved the largest decrease in the proportion of the population practising open defecation - from 92% in 1990 to 29% in 2015, a reduction over five times greater than the regional average for the same period. Open defecation was practised by 44.3 million Ethiopians in 1990 and 28.3 million in 2015. 

Some African countries were among the star performers in increasing access to piped water on premises by at least 25%

Botswana (52%), Egypt (37%), Senegal (33%), Mauritania (26%) and Morocco (25%)

Egypt tops the charts in reducing inequality in access to water and sanitation

The gap in access to water and sanitation between the richest and poorest quintiles is an important measure of inequality. Only six countries succeeded in halving the proportion of the poorest without improved sanitation in both rural and urban areas and Egypt was the only one from Africa. Nine countries succeeded in halving the proportion of the population without improved drinking water in both rural and urban areas, Egypt, Tunisia and Uganda representing the continent. Only three countries achieved both: Egypt, Jordan and Mexico.

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