A human rights and public interest lawyer, Mr Francis-Xavier Sosu, has called on the government to, as a matter of urgency and necessity, begin the process to enact a National Sanitation Act to back all legislation and efforts to improve sanitation.
Mr Sosu also proposed to the law courts to consider converting custodial sentences for minor offences into sentences in which those found guilty would be made to undertake sanitation services within the communities.
Such a move, he said, would give legal backing to the National Sanitation Day (NSD) and ensure that the pollution of the environment through filth was halted.
Quoting articles 1(1) and 41 of the 1992 Constitution, he said those provisions placed a constitutional duty on all citizens to safeguard the environment and keep it clean, as well as improve sanitation.
It is constitutional
Addressing a press conference on the theme: “Is it constitutional to legalise the National Sanitation Day?” in Accra, Mr Sosu said the constitutional clauses enjoined all to respect the rights, freedoms and legitimate interests of others and generally refrain from doing acts that were detrimental to the welfare of other people.
The clauses, he said, also enjoined Ghanaians “to contribute to the well-being of the community where that citizen lives” and to “protect and safeguard the environment”.
He argued that while the citizenry enjoyed the benefit of their rights, it was important and fundamental that every citizen be held to the obligations imposed by the Constitution.
“It is noteworthy that Article 41 of the 1992 Constitution is mostly not referred to by most of us when it comes to the enforcement of our obligations by the state,” he said.
Mr Sosu said considering Ghana’s obligations under international law and the 1992 Constitution, it was required, as a matter of policy and good governance, that effective and active steps be taken to promote access to basic sanitation.
“There is no doubt that access to basic sanitation can advance the realisation and enjoyment of certain human rights such as the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of all individuals as enshrined in Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the right to life, the right to human dignity, the right to a safe environment and the right to health,” he said.
Ghana, he said, first published its environmental sanitation policy in 1999, adding that since 2004 efforts had been made to review the document, culminating in a successful review dubbed the Environmental Sanitation and Action Plan.
Difficulty in changing behaviour
However, as the years progressed, he observed, it was becoming even more difficult to deal with behavioural changes such as open defecation, indiscriminate littering and improper waste disposal which had rather increased and caused near disaster in public health.
“As far back as 2011, the publications of the World Health Organisation (WHO) showed that 589,854 cholera cases had been globally reported, with 7,816 deaths. In the said statistics, it was Africa that was leading, with Ghana being among the first five,” he said.
Since 2011, he said, most Ghanaians had become worse promoters of good sanitation and neglected their duty to Mother Ghana, leading to several other outbreaks of cholera.
“The rains have just begun and who knows what statistics we may record,” he lamented.
He said the institution of the National Sanitation Day was to reduce the insanitary conditions that caused health hazards but, sadly, there had been various negative commentaries and general apathy on the part of Ghanaians towards the exercise, noting that all the major societal stakeholders had gone to sleep waiting for the country to perish.
Source: Daily Graphic
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