Accra’s Water Woes: High Prices and Unsafe Water Challenge Residents Despite Government Efforts

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By Sarah Brou

In a quest for reliable access to clean water, many Ghanaians, including myself, have experienced the struggle of relocating from one area to another. In my case, my family and I moved from ECC around Kasoa to East Legon, hoping for improved water conditions. Unfortunately, the reality in East Legon proved to be both worse and more expensive than our previous situation.

According to UNICEF statistics, a staggering 76% of households in Ghana face the risk of drinking water contaminated with faecal matter. While the 2021 Population and Housing Census reported that 87.7% of the population has access to basic water supply services, a significant urban-rural disparity persists. Urban areas boast a 96.4% access rate, while rural communities lag behind at 74.4%. Alarmingly, 8% of Ghanaian households still rely on unsafe water sources.

Despite seemingly high access to safe water in urban areas, the prevalence of sachet water (51.5%) surpasses pipe-borne water (33.6%). The question arises: why do some families have access to safe water while others are left with unsafe alternatives? The answer lies in the interplay of poverty and lack of information.

Personal Experience: The East Legon Predicament

Upon our arrival in East Legon, our hope for improved water access was met with a harsh reality. The cost of water was exorbitant, with unreliable politanks often failing to supply enough due to the scarcity of pipe-borne water. To meet our basic water needs for daily activities and meals, we found ourselves paying a steep price of 300GhC per week – an expense that could stretch over two to three months. This financial burden forced us to resort to buying additional drinking water, further draining our budget.

The underlying issue is not just the cost but also the safety of the water. Many households, including ours, cannot trust the local water supply and resort to purchasing drinking water from external sources. It has become evident that the water crisis in Ghana extends beyond mere inconvenience; it is a substantial problem affecting the daily lives and finances of its citizens.

A Call for Action: UNICEF’s Involvement

Recognizing the severity of the water crisis, UNICEF has been actively collaborating with the Ghanaian government to develop and implement strategies for effective drinking water supply services. One such strategy involves supporting the government in reviewing and developing policies, such as the National Water Policy, the Water Sector Strategic Development Plan, and the National Drinking Water Quality Management Framework.

UNICEF’s efforts extend beyond policy development to the demonstration of practical solutions. In 2016, the collaborative program between the Government of Ghana and UNICEF provided safe drinking water to nearly 74,000 community members in rural areas, showcasing the potential impact of targeted interventions.

To ensure the sustainability of these initiatives, UNICEF places a strong emphasis on capacity development for institutions involved in water supply services. The ultimate goal is ambitious but crucial: to provide water for all citizens of Ghana before 2030 in line with Sustainable Development Goal 6.

As Ghana grapples with the challenges of water access, the collaboration between UNICEF and the government offers a glimmer of hope for a future where every household can access safe and affordable drinking water. The journey towards that goal, however, requires concerted efforts from all stakeholders to address the multifaceted issues surrounding water supply in the country.

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