Ceremony to Protect Marine Life from Plastic Pollution and Open Defecation – Remarks by Ambassador Sullivan

Ambassador Sullivan’s remarks at Ceremony to Protect Marine Life
from Plastic Pollution  and Open Defecation
Jamestown Lighthouse
In Recognition of World Toilet Day (Nov 19) 
November 16, 2019 12:00 noon

Representative of the Minister of Water and Sanitation; 
Mr. Andrew Barnes, High Commissioner of Australia; 
Mr. Obed Quaye and Members of the Waste Segregation and Composting Movement; 
Sub-Metro chairman of Ashaydoo-eteke and Assemblyman for Jamestown; 
Ladies and Gentlemen; 
Members of the media:  

Thank you for the invitation to this important occasion. 

Congratulations to all of the participants in the 25 kilometer walk and cycling event. I commend the efforts these cyclists have made to draw attention to the need to make Ghana’s beaches pristine areas, free of plastic and other waste, and safe to enjoy as the recreational areas they truly are.To pose an often-heard question: “What’s in it for me?” – or you – or the people of Ghana? Improved sanitation will bring positive health and economic benefits, from better nutrition and greater productivity, to increased tourism revenues. 

There are two sayings in Ga, “Nu kpapka haa wala” Water is Life and “falefale feemo haa ahunyam” Sanitation is Dignity. These sayings acknowledge the fundamental right of all people to safe and adequate water and sanitation. The Sustainable Development Goal is to ensure universal access to safe and affordable drinking water for all by 2030.  In Ghana, only 18% of people have access to safe sanitation, and 31% of the population practices open defecation.  

Poor water and sanitation are responsible for over 70% of diarrheal deaths in children younger than 5 years in Ghana.  Events like today not only protect the environment, but also help to give more children the opportunity to reach their potential and contribute to the development of their communities. Development assistance from the United States helps increase access to water, sanitation and hygiene, and builds the capacity of schools, communities, districts and committees to operate, manage, and sustain water and sanitation facilities. We use a community-led, total sanitation approach to support the elimination of open defecation. This approach engages community members to conduct their own appraisal of areas of open defecation and define their own solutions. 

As a result of our support, a total of 108 communities were declared “Open Defecation Free” (ODF) in 2019, bringing the total number of our target communities declared ODF to 740 in the past five years.  When I was here 20 years Ago, it wasn’t called Open Defection but “Free Ranging”. So it’s not a new thing – It just has a new name. I hope in 20 more years it not only won’t have a new name, it won’t have any more name at all because it won’t be a problem anymore!  Each household and community has the responsibility to maintain that status. 

In conclusion, the United States has worked hand-in-hand with the Government and people of Ghana to help create a cleaner, healthier, and more economically viable environment. No campaign is effective without the foot-soldiers on the frontlines, who work day-in and day-out to make a difference. 

I congratulate environmentalist Malik Mino Ereira and his colleagues, for they are indeed part of the solution to today’s challenges leading to tomorrow’s prosperity. 

Thank you.