“Open defecation free (ODF) is a term used to describe communities that have shifted to using toilets instead of open defecation” – Wikipedia. This term is associated with the initiative tagged “Making Nigeria Open Defecation Free by 2025: A National Roadmap” was developed by the Federal Ministry of Water Resources with invaluable support from UNICEF and other key sector players across Nigeria. The Roadmap provides a guide towards achieving an open defecation free country using different approaches. This study though conducted Ghana, corroborates the need for this initiative in all West African states.
This timely study was conducted by three (3) researchers from the University for Development Studies, Nyankpala Campus, Tamale, Ghana, namely; Dr. Bakobien N. (Department of Environment, Water and Waste Engineering, School of Engineering), Dr. Ibrahim, A. R. and Dr. Duwiejuah A. B. (both of Ecotourism and Environmental Management, Faculty of Natural Resources and Environment).
The authors explained that Open defaecation leads to faecal matter contamination of drinking water which can cause water borne diseases. As such, their study was aimed at assessing the linkage between sanitation practices and microbial quality of drinking water of open defaecation free and open defaecation communities in the Savelugu Municipality in Ghana.
The researchers employed a cross-sectional survey of 170 households in five open defaecation free and five open defaecation communities in the Savelugu municipality, Ghana. They collected a total of 78 samples of water from water sources and households and screened for the presence of disease-causing microorganisms especially those declared by World Health Organization (WHO) as impermissible in drinking water such as Escherichia coli, Salmonella spp and Shigella spp.
While they collected samples, the researchers observed that the sanitation facilities used by the residents included pit latrine (88.24%), no latrine (11.17%), and flush (0.59%). They also observed improper disposal of children faeces in the communities.
Regarding the unwanted microorganisms, the researchers observed that E. coli count ranged from 0 to 15 CFU/100 ml in open defaecation free communities and 0 to 32 CFU/100 ml in open defaecation communities, which is impermissible according to WHO. They noted that the microbial load in the drinking water from open defaecation communities was higher than open defaecation free communities.
The researchers therefore concluded that open defaecation practice could lead to contamination of household water probably due to unsanitary, as they earlier claimed. They recommended that Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) should be encouraged and promoted in open defaecation communities.
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