Poor Sanitation In Our Major Cities : Let’s Move Birnam Woods To Dunsinane


It is an open secret that the environment has impact on human health and this impact may be positive or negative depending how humans themselves treat the environment. From anthropological and geomorphological perspectives however, we must be active factors in change hence we must not allow the environment to work its will on us.

Sadly however, most people in Ghana treat the physical environment harshly by discharging waste anyhow, thereby making our cities so filthy and this visits on us, deadly infectious diseases that lead to preventable deaths.

I may sound opinionated, but most of our cities are dirty and arguably, Accra which is the national capital is the dirtiest city in Ghana. Plastic and other solid wastes are pushed into gutters which are supposed to drain liquid waste and we look on unconcerned.
Under the circumstance, even heavy drizzling leads to flooding and its attendant havocs including but not limited to preventable human deaths in our major cities. Of course, one of our Medical Officers, 33 year old Dr. Aya Hayfron who was a lactating mother was killed by flood waters when she was returning home from work in 2018. This year, the flood waters resulting from choked drains took away the lives of a military couple ( WO Sarah Kuadzi and S/Sgt Arthur Jabez) and many others.
The poor sanitation menace which we have discussed over the years and are not solving it aggressively has come to stay.

The the solid wastes we throw carelessly into the gutters have become the chickens that return home to roost and we are always at the receiving end. Nothing has ever become better by ignoring the reality so we need to act decisively and appropriately. To what extent are sections of the Public Health Act touching on sanitation enforced?

The Isrealites according to the Bible could not conquer the walls of Jericho until they marched aggressively round it once a day for six days as God directed Joshua to ensure that the people do so. God did not come from heaven to move round the wall on behalf of the Israelites and neither did He send His consuming fire unto the walls. He asked the people to overcome the obstacle in the form of the walls, all by themselves by marching round the walls once a day for six days.

Suffice to say that we will continue to suffer the consequences of the way we treat our surroundings if we treat the issue as a nugatory and do not take the most appropriate remedial actions.

Much as we fail to brighten our neck of the woods, communicable diseases, death and many other related misfortunes that emanate from a poor or dirty environment will befall us.
A fine gentleman or cute lady, driving a nice car and well dressed, will eat and throw the waste through the car windows unto the streets. Will a rational being discharge solid waste into the drains? What is really wrong with us? Sovereignty of reasoning loss or what?
We have made churchnity ( if the word exists) as christianity so we don’t value our God given resources. We waste them. Wouldn’t it have been nice if we had water transport from Kwame Nkrumah Circle to Korlebu? But we destroyed the Lagoon which our forebears once enjoyed. If the Egyptians had treated River Nile and the 160 year old Suez Canal like how we treated the Korle Lagoon and other water bodies across the nation, then how would Egypt survive? Perhaps we need a lesson or two from the Egyptians as to how they are able to keep the oasis in Fayoum and use it for exponentially beneficial agricultural purposes.
By our collective actions, we seem to prefer dirt to cleanliness which we say is next to godliness yet we rush to the Mosques and Churches on Fridays and Sundays respectively, seeking spiritual solutions for even physical problems we have brought unto ourselves.
Surprisingly, even the political parties and the religious bodies make the walls and road guard rails dirty by posting posters on them. Even places with the inscription, “post no bill” are not spared.

Enough dustbins are not provided on the streets and even times that they are provided, they are either stolen over night or when they are full, nobody comes for the waste. We continue to generate waste unto waste at a high speed.
Under such a scenario, I am deprived of the predictive capability that will enable me to confidently say that the situation will become any better soon.

In 2014, we witnessed almost a nationwide cholera outbreak which killed a significant number of Ghanaians and this received lengthy and wide media attention. Vibrio Cholerae, the cholera causing bacteria thrive in filth hence with the filthy environment especially in our major cities including Accra, cholera should have been a daily occurrence but for the Grace of God.

The cause of the poor sanitation problem in our cities is an admixture of factors. Poor planning, bad drainage systems, poor attitudes, ignorance, neglect of duty and many others may be found in that admixture of the causative factors. The masses, politicians and religious bodies are all to blame.

With all this, we talk of making Accra the cleanest city in Africa by 2020. Really? Over ambition or a political gimmick?
Into what illhealth dangers have we led ourselves that the environment that we are supposed to subdue is rather working its will on us even to the point of death? A retreat is seemingly impossible.

Until we pause, think and actually move the Birnam Woods to Dunsinane Hills, we cannot defeat our Macbeth which is in the form of hips of garbage all over in our cities. Or are we rather suffering from somnambulism (sleepwalking) , the condition that killed lady Macbeth so we are no longer stable mentally to face the challenge? Well, until Macduff symbolically moves Birnam Woods to Dunsinane, he wasn’t able to defeat Macbeth. In our case, we need to actually move the Birnam Woods to Dunsinane against the poor sanitation problem.

May be the churches and mosques should not only preach prosperity and salvation, they should equally preach sanitation to their congregants. We listen to the holy word and pray in tongues yet we treat the environment in which we live as if the spiritual growth we seek is obtained in a vacuum.
After all, we are made in the image of God so we have a godly element to think and act rationally. God is pure and not dirty so we must mimic His nature. Let us grace and not disgrace God.

I hope you are listening. Stop the blame game, change your attitude and do your bit to keep the environment clean.

Mr. Government, you also collect the taxes and borrow loans in our collective name so don’t neglect your sanitation duties. God is watching oooo.

Remember that public goods are non-excludable in nature hence private organizations hardly provide public goods if not for corporate social responsibility purposes. As such, only you Mr. Government can help us solve some of these problems so do not fail to perform such duties.

Asante Sana.

Author: Philip Afeti Korto


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