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.
Then Garu-Tempane District was placed first for its sterling performance.
Still in 2017, 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 School of Public Health, University of Ghana, Legon, to create awareness among students about the health and environmental hazards of the awful practice, Miss 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 launching followed a case study she carried out on the project at Bolgatanga Senior High School. After the case study, Miss 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, Miss 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, Miss Atampugbire used 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 sensitization. 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 sensitizations ranging from STIs [Sexually Transmitted Infections] prevention and treatment, personal hygiene campaigns, public health nutrition etc at 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.”
Emphasising on her motivation to undertake the project, Miss Atampugbire stated: “As a final year student of the School of Public Health-UG, Legon, it is required that each student presents a project work in paper for the award of a bachelor degree in Public Health.
I looked around as usual thinking of what to do that will result to impacting lives and effecting healthy practices in my region, Upper East.
Then I saw online on one of the news portals, A1 Radio, about Bolgatanga Senior High school also known as BIG BOSS engaged in open defecation although there were toilet facilities in the school. I realized at this point that the solution was behaviour change.”
She said though the project has not been marked yet, from the data analysis, she observed most of the students had no reason why the defecated openly.
“Which means, it’s voluntary. And if voluntary then something had to be done to curb this menace that is eating up the region already.” She said.
While calling on teachers and authorities concerned to periodically check on the states of school toilet facilities in the schools and endeavour to fix faulty ones, Miss 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 using toilet facilities at home, Miss 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 shun 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 sensitization as well as periodic monitoring to ensure the region is declared Open Defecation Free
She called on government and other benevolent organizations to support build more toilet facilities for second cycle institutions to ease the burden on the already few existing facilities.
She suggested to custodial law makers to help in the fight against open defecation by integrating open defecation messages into already ritualized cultural practices such as “No loo, no bride.”
School authorities and other leaders of organisations should come out with reminders and post them at vantage points to remind students and the general public about the dangers of open defecation.
Speaking to A1 News, some students admitted that it was the first time such elaborate awareness platform on open defecation was provided for them. They, therefore, pledged to be ambassadors of Open Defecation Free not only in their school but communities as well.
The programme attracted high attendance of students of BIG BOSS and some of their teachers led by the Assistant Head master in charge of administration, Stephen Awasinab.
Mr. Awasinab commended Miss 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.
Source:A1Radioonline.com|101.1MHZ|William Nlanjerbor JALULAH