Diarrheal diseases are a
major problem in northern Ghana, accounting for a large number of infant
deaths. The problem has been attributed to unhygienic practices and
contaminated drinking water. Voice of
America English to Africa Service reporter Joana Mantey in Accra says a
non-profit organization -- the West Africa Water Initiative (WAWI) -- is
working with field partners to solve the problem.
WAWI is made up of 13 international organizations
working with governments and local partners in Ghana, Mali and Niger to help
rural development by providing rural water supplies and sanitation. The field
partners are UNICEF, World Vision Ghana, and a local organization called New
is one of the field partners of WAWI. He works for the World Vision Ghana Rural
Water Project to promote behavioral change and good health practices. Saaka
said the project identifies ways in which villagers are infected by unclean
water and shows how to avoid infection.
For example, Saaka said people carry water from the boreholes in
open containers, but "they fetch leaves which are contaminated and put them
inside the water. So, before they get to the house the water is contaminated, which means they need to do household treatment before they drink."
People living along streams
also contaminate the water with human waste which affects those living
local non-profit organizations and community health workers undertake
educational efforts aimed at changing this and other behaviors. He said without
behavioral change, new water treatments are not beneficial.
He said people are first
encouraged to disinfect drinking water, using "point-of-use technologies" such
as aquatab, a chlorine-based water treatment tablet.
"Then we have
ceramic filters that remove the particles but do not remove the bacterial
component. So you could combine the two, using the filter as well as aquatab,"
Saaka said in
trying to bring about behavioral change, the field workers often face
unacceptable water handling practices that date back in time. People are likely
to say, "We have used this water for generations without serious health
problems, so why should we change now?"
Saaka said they often
encounter resistance, especially among people who say the water treatment
tablet is actually a way of introducing birth control. Some also think the
tablets are poisonous because of their taste and smell.
Other obstacles include high illiteracy and the
low socio-economic status of many households. But the WAWI partnership has
chalked up some successes in drilling the boreholes and providing alternate,
improved water sources. And experts say that promoting household water
treatment and safe storage products will help reduce diarrhea, guinea worm and
trachoma due to drinking contaminated water.