Ensuring climate-resilient WASH services in Ghana

While many climate-sensitive sectors have come under the brutish impacts of changing climatic conditions, Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) remain one such critical sector already suffering from climate impacts.

This is against the background that climate change as an emergent challenge is essentially a water problem manifesting through the lack thereof or excess of it.

Floods as excess water, and droughts representing the lack of water, define and drive how climate change impacts manifest in particular sectors. Climate-induced extreme events such as floods, therefore, have a high propensity to influence water quality through pollution and contamination, which may in turn lead to water-borne diseases such as diarrhoea and cholera outbreaks.

Droughts, on the other hand, borne out of increased temperatures and prolonged periods of low or no rainfall, lead to water scarcity which has significant ramifications WASH services delivery and public health.

WASH and Climate Change in Ghana

WaterAid Ghana is one such organization known for its works in the WASH sector across the length and breadth of the country.

Focusing primarily on water security and public health for sustainable development, WaterAid acknowledges the threat of climate change to WASH services delivery in Ghana and has since been at the forefront of advocacy, policy, and intervention actions to create a climate-resilient WASH sector.

The WASH sector is essentially water-driven and water-dependent making any changes in availability and quality of water a major concern for public health and wellbeing, and for the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Despite progress made in WASH services provision in Ghana and in pursuit of the SDGs, especially Goal 6, a lot more work remains to be done as climate change impacts on water resources continue to threaten the WASH sector, as well as the health of people and communities.

More than 4.4 million people live without access to clean water in Ghana. Close to 24 million Ghanaians lack decent toilets while more than 1600 children under five die each year from diarrhea- related diseases caused by poor quality water and the lack of decent toilets. Even more worrying is the fact that about 76 percent of households in Ghana face the risk of drinking unsafe and contaminated water with fecal matter, a situation that has remained central in WASH and public health programming.

While these may be general national statistics that play out differently in diverse communities across the country, the reality, however, remains that climate change as an emergent reality is exacerbating existing water, sanitation, and hygiene challenges, and in ways that are portentous to Ghana’s sustainable development aspirations. The imperative, therefore, is urgent, for Government, communities, and development partners such as WaterAid, to make water management a central pillar in climate adaptation processes in local communities across Ghana to assure climate-resilient WaSH services delivery.

 WaterAid Ghana—Evidence-Based Advocacy

Known globally and nationally for its commitment to water security and improved public health, WaterAid Ghana does not only lead in advocacy for climate action in the WASH sector, but also in the provision of WASH services that build the adaptive capacity and resilience of people and communities. A major preoccupation of WaterAid Ghana has been to bring a focus on the linkage between climate change impacts on water resources by shining the light on how those impacts impede WASH services provision.

This, they have done and continue to do through intentional processes of evidence gathering (research) and knowledge development to inform policy and practice.

Recently commissioned studies in parts of Ghana, and especially in the northern regions of Ghana, have provided critical evidence on the pace and state of climate change impacts on water resources in the regions and, perhaps, more importantly, how they affect WASH services and public health.

Truth is, even though the SDGs advocate for progressive reduction of inequalities related to hygiene and universal access to clean water and sanitation, evidence derived from such focused studies point, ironically, to increased inequalities in access to clean water and improved sanitation between rural and urban settings.

While diverse reasons may be adduced for such inequalities, the role of climate change impacts on water resources in perennially vulnerable communities such as those in the northern regions of Ghana, cannot be ruled out as people and communities deal with issues of water scarcity, access, and quality on a regular basis.

Mobilizing for Climate Action in the Water Sector

Any quest for a climate-resilient WASH sector in Ghana will require intentional processes of effective policymaking, knowledge development, awareness creation, education, and resource mobilization to build adaptive capacities and resilience. These are prerequisites for proactive adaptative capacity and resilience building and thankfully, WaterAid Ghana, understands this imperative.

Working in collaboration with key strategic partners, such as government, communities, and other critical stakeholders, WaterAid Ghana has been focused on mobilizing the requisite resources to create a climate-resilient WASH sector.

A major concern has been the need for the creation of an enabling operational environment, one that is supported by the requisite policy framework.

WaterAid-Ghana is encouraged by the existing government policy framework, especially as contained in the National Adaptation Planning (NAP), the National Climate Change Policy (NCCP), and the National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy (NCCAS).

Even more encouraging is the more recent Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which is Ghana’s expressed and committed obligations under the Convention.

Representing Ghana’s overall ambition towards sustained, coordinated, and proactive climate actions, the NDCs spell out Ghana’s position, expressed as intended climate actions, to build adaptive and resilience capacity in both adaptation and mitigation across sectors.

Central to this is the recognition by the government that climate change manifests through water, the lack of it (drought), or excess of it (flood), and the critical importance of protecting water resources.

The protection and assurance of water resources is a prerequisite for human health and human survival; it is also the foundation for the provision and assurance of climate-resilient water, sanitation, and hygiene services in Ghana.

WaterAid Ghana embraces these policy provisions and remains committed to working with the government, development partners, local communities, academic and research institutions, and all stakeholders to create a climate-resilient WASH sector in Ghana.