These last few weeks I’ve been keeping busy and starting to feel at home here in Tamale. I’m getting to know more about northern Ghana: its people, traditions, culture, politics, economy, and of course about water and sanitation. I find myself probing my new friends and colleagues to try and gain a richer understanding of my surroundings. I’ve also had the opportunity to attend a couple of conferences about water and sanitation in the area as well as go out into the villages where the projects take place.
The I-WASH mid-year review was a chance to hear about the achievements and challenges facing the European Union and UNICEF funded integrated water, sanitation, and hygiene project in northern Ghana. Both the government and organizations are involved in this project to improve rural water and sanitation in the area and it was great to start understanding how they work together to achieve that goal. While this review was particularly for the I-WASH project, it is representative of how organizations and the regional, district, and local levels of government work together. It was clearly important that in the end the water and sanitation projects are managed and owned by the government, with non-profits and other organizations supporting and coordinating within their infrastructure.
I also was able to sit in on the Guinea Worm Eradication Program’s quarterly review. Staff members from all over northern Ghana came to share how their communities are doing with regard to guinea worm. It was such a pleasure to see how all the hard work and community education and participation has paid off. There are only 8 reported cases of guinea worm in Ghana so far this year. They expect that the water-borne disease will be eradicated from Ghana by this time next year! Unfortunately, while guinea worm is leaving Ghana there are still diseases affecting rural areas, including other parasites as well as diarrheal disease.
Attending the meetings gave me a chance to see an overview of the water and sanitation sector, but to really understand I know I need to spend time in the villages themselves. Catholic Relief Services is working with CARE on the Global Water Initiative in the Upper West region of Ghana and one of the CRS staff invited me to visit 15 schools where they have been working to support the school health education programs (SHEP). We drove to Wa, which is about 6 hours northwest from Tamale on a pretty rough road past one of Ghana’s national parks and oldest mosques. For a whole week we traveled to the villages to distribute materials for the school health clubs to be able to clean up their grounds as well as build things like latrines. I had a chance to talk with the school head teachers, health teachers, and representatives from the school health clubs. While most of the students had just joined and had yet to receive training on what their roles would be exactly, they seem eager to beautify the school grounds and share with other students and the community members about better hygiene and health. One of the most beautiful experiences I’ve had so far in Ghana was on the last day of our trip when I was able to interview two women on their community’s water and sanitation committee. The treasurer and organizer, the two women shared with me their roles, achievements, challenges, and plans for the future. What they said they have enjoyed the most about their participation is “exchanging ideas and learning new things”. As I thanked the woman who translated for us I couldn’t help but smile at the children resting on women’s laps, soak in the shade from the trees in the courtyard, and recognize the unique opportunity offered to me at that very moment.
Lastly, I just want to share with you my most recent trip to the Upper East region of Ghana, where the boreholes WATER has supported through CRS have been drilled. I went with one of the staff to do the final inspections on the boreholes and see the four villages where safe drinking water is now flowing. They are: Sakote, Dakoto, Gonum, and Kanania. These villages have been part of another CRS project for maternal and child health clinics, and they were chosen to participate in the water and sanitation project because a lack of clean, nearby water was affecting the clinics ability to serve the community. I will be returning to two of these villages shortly with the visitors from Seattle and look forward to having the two groups come together to celebrate and share life and community with one another.
Thank you again for your support and the next blog will feature the Seattle visitors as they relate their experiences,
|< Prev||Next >|