WASHINGTON DC - On April 20, 2011 in the Wassa Amenfi District of Western Ghana, Africare-Ghana held a commissioning ceremony in celebration of the completion of the Ghana Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene for Health (WASHH) Project, which was funded by a generous donation from President Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize Award. Africare President Darius Mans traveled to Ghana for the occasion. Special guest Stephen Axelson, the coordinator of Walk for Water, a 1k Walk/5k Run that raised money for Africare’s water and sanitation projects, also attended the ceremony. (Read more about his visit here). They were joined by the traditional leaders and many members of the community, local governments, and Ministry of Water Resources, Works, and Housing, as well as representatives from other NGOs, the World Bank, and USAID. Community members relayed their profound appreciation to Africare, Obama and Axelson for their roles in increasing their access to clean water sources and safe sanitation facilities, which will improve their lives.
The WASHH project was implemented in 4 communities of the Wassa Amenfi District, where over 80% of people were dissatisfied with the quality of their water, 90% of the population shared a latrine with up to 30 other people, the incidence of diarrhea among children under 5 was high and knowledge of basic hygiene was limited and in some cases non-existent.
Despite its small scale the project piloted a highly innovative approach to achieving sustainable improvements in access to clean water, improved sanitation and consequently improved health.
The project improved access to clean water and sanitation by supporting community-built infrastructure investments – new waterpoints (wells and boreholes), rehabilitation of non-functional waterpoints, and latrines in schools. Additionally, Africare facilitated a Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) approach that uses community members themselves as part of an active and intense behavior change campaign focused on increasing knowledge and awareness about the benefits of clean water and better sanitation practices. Africare worked with churches and local football clubs, and organized community competitions as well as radio talk shows, posters and murals to spread the message about improved sanitation, good hygiene and clean water. This increased awareness helped stimulate a demand and create a market for improved sanitation services and products. To ensure availability of these services, Africare trained masons to construct the most commonly used, low-cost, ventilated latrines for households in the community.
Six months after the project started the supply and demand sides are already coming together to form a sanitation market. Because of increased knowledge through the media and CLTS campaigns, community members in these very poor communities are contracting the masons trained under the project to construct private latrines in their homes. Over 80 latrines have already been constructed. More are in the pipeline. Africare also trained the water user associations that are responsible for operations and maintenance of the wells, including collection of fees. All this positions the communities to be self-sufficient long after completion of the WASHH project.