By William Nlanjerbor Jalulah .
Open defecation remains a very serious health and environmental hazard in many developing countries in Africa, including Ghana. The 2017 Upper East Regional ‘Open Defecation Free League Table’ placed the regional capital, Bolgatanga, at the bottom of the table for having performed poorly in achieving Open Defecation Free status.
Garu-Tempane District was placed first for its sterling performance.
Still in 2017, the Upper East Region scored 82%, making it first in open defecation among the ten regions in Ghana
In her bit as a professional nurse and final year student of the School of Public Health, University of Ghana, Legon, to create awareness among students about the health and environmental hazards of the awful practice, Ms Gifty Atampugbire has launched a project dubbed: ‘Behaviour change practices on open defecation among students in second cycle institutions in the Upper East Region.’
The launch followed a case study she carried out on the project at the Bolgatanga Senior High School (BIG BOSS). After the case study, Ms Atampugbire returned to the school on Wednesday January 16, 2019, and took the students through what she found out while embarking on the case study.
Before she made her presentation in the fully-packed dining hall of BIG BOSS, Ms Atampugbire put the students into groups called the Pretest Stage, where their knowledge on the causes, effects and solutions of open defecation was tested. The students generated relevant discussions on the subject, and pledged to be ambassadors of ‘Open Defecation Free’, not only in their schools, but their communities at large.
In a short video documentary she composed, Ms Atampugbire used the Health Belief Model to highlight the health, environmental and economic dangers of open defecation, and the need for the menace to be eradicated. The model, according to her, seeks to understand why people engage in practices that are harmful to their health
Speaking to the media after the launch of the project, she said: “This project was borne out of passion for public health sensitisation. I believe nursing shouldn’t be limited to the confines of the hospital environment, but should go extensively to the doorsteps of community members.
“I have been engaged in various health sensitisations, ranging from STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections) prevention and treatment, personal hygiene campaigns, to public health nutrition etc at the basic schools, tertiary institutions and on social media.
“When people are given the right information relating to their health and the environment, it empowers them to make informed choices, live healthy lives and stop activities that endanger their health.”
While calling on teachers and the authorities concerned to periodically check the states of school toilet facilities and endeavour to fix the faulty ones, Ms Atampugbire pledged to extend the project to all senior high schools in the region, in order to help effect positive health practices.
She also encouraged students of all second cycle institutions to keep their toilet facilities clean at all times, in order that they are comfortable for use.
Having advised parents to teach their children to practice and adhere to the use of toilet facilities at home, Ms Atampugbire also entreated the public to desist from the social norm that open defecation is normal, but rather, they should focus on the dangers the practice poises on the lives of everyone, especially young children and the aged, and shy away from it.
She challenged all health professionals, especially public health nurses and environmental health and sanitation personnel in the region, to take up the challenge and conduct massive public education and sensitisation, as well as periodic monitoring to ensure the region is declared ‘Open Defecation Free’.
She called on the government and other benevolent organisations to support build more toilet facilities for second cycle institutions to ease the burden on the already few existing ones.
Speaking to The Chronicle, some students admitted that it was the first time such an elaborate awareness platform on open defecation was provided them. They, therefore, pledged to be ambassadors of Open Defecation Free, not only in their school, but communities as well.
The programme attracted a high attendance of students of BIG BOSS and some of their teachers, led by the Assistant Headmaster in charge of Administration, Stephen Awasinab.
Mr. Awasinab commended Ms Atampugbire for the initiative and encouraged her to do more, while assuring her of his management’s readiness to accord her the needed support to help eradicate the menace in the school.