The Coalition of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in Water and Sanitation (CONIWAS), has launched its Annual Mole Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Conference series in Accra, on the theme: "Repositioning the WASH Sector for Emergency Response and Sustainable Development."
The four-day conference, which marked the 32nd in the Mole series, will be held from November 2 to November 5, 2021, at Ejisu, near Kumasi in the Ashanti Region, and expected to attract participants from sectors, including Ministries, Departments and Agencies, academia, media, and civil society.
Ms Basilia Nanbigne, the Executive Secretary of CONIWAS, at the media launch on Wednesday, said the central objective of Mole XXXII Conference was to discuss and harness ideas, set the agenda and contribute to designing policies to strengthen Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector emergency preparedness.
This would place the sector in readiness to anticipate, plan, mitigate and respond to whatever acute or chronic challenges that may arise in emergency situations in future, she said.
Ms Nanbigne also indicated that the Conference would retain its normal focus on knowledge sharing and advocacy and devote about 60 per cent of the period to sharing lessons on trends, provide participants with information on various WASH policies and programmes, advocate for the improvement of enabling framework for WASH in emergencies, and attract private sector investment with a view to improving service delivery.
She underscored the importance of WASH, especially with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic where handwashing, hand hygiene and good sanitation practices had been accepted as the most effective way to prevent the spread of the virus.
Ms Nanbigne said although Ghana had made some commendable strides in recent years to provide safe water, sanitation and hygiene to the citizenry amid financing and institutional setbacks, and under the current ravaging COVID-19 pandemic, there was still a long way to go.
She said emergency situations such as COVID-19 posed a major threat to access to service provision by vulnerable populations.
Ms Nanbigne noted that although the 2021 WHO-UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme report showed some improvements in Ghana WASH facilities, the achievement of 24 per cent in basic sanitation as at 2020 was still unacceptable, pointing out to the existing rural-urban divide, as well other inequalities, which included gender biases.
She said one key lesson of the impact of the covid-19 pandemic on the WASH sector was the need to prepare for emergency response to ensure equitable WASH service delivery.
She explained that a well-prepared emergency response meant ensuring that systems, institutions, and resources were available to enable the WASH sector to prepare and mitigate the effects of any unforeseen situation or future pandemic and other unexpected hazards, including the unknown impact of climate change.
That would ensure that the WASH sector was more responsive to disasters and pandemics, especially in vulnerable communities and low-income communities as well as sustain the central role of WASH in human development, she said.
Mr Attah Arhin, the Chairman of CONIWAS, said it was against that background that MOLE XXXII Conference would discuss and harness ideas, set the agenda and contribute to designing better policies to strengthen WASH sector emergency preparedness.
He called on the Government to prioritise the sanitation sub-sector, by enhancing investment, enforcing the laws and adequately engaging all stakeholders to accelerate the rate of access to improved sanitation.
He also urged Government to take the necessary steps to resource the Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources with funding and personnel, to improve the current records, and asked Ghanaians to demand for such facilities as a right and not a luxury to ensure growth and national development.
Mr Arhin said the Conference would discuss sub-themes such as Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in Emergencies; Water, Sanitation and Hygiene as Catalyst for Growth; Managing Our Water Resources for equitable Growth, and ICT and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Delivery.