Remarks by Ambassador Robert P. Jackson at Sustainable Sanitation Hygiene Technologies and Resources Launch

Honorable Kofi Adda, Minister of Water and Sanitation Resources,;
Honorable Mohammed Nii Adjei Sowah, Mayor of Accra,
Mirielle Hitti, CEO of Duraplast Ghana Limited,
Alberto Wilde, USAID WASH for Health Project Chief of Party,
Ni ma, Na ma, Nananom, Traditional Chiefs and Elders,
Other Government of Ghana officials,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

Good morning.  It is a great pleasure for me to be here on behalf of the U.S. government.  We are here today to launch two important new sanitation products:  a game-changing latrine and a comprehensive education package to improve water, sanitation and hygiene behaviors — or WASH.  These two products have the potential to transform lives throughout Ghana.

Before I begin, I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the Ghanaian government for partnering with us to improve sanitation and health.  We are proud of our many close partnerships with the Ghanaian government. Together, we are improving millions of lives.

I would also like to thank Global Communities.  You have successfully developed and harnessed innovative solutions to the most pressing development challenges worldwide.  I am happy to partner with you in Ghana through USAID’s WASH for Health Project.  

Finally, I would like to thank Duraplast Ghana, a leading Ghanaian plastic producer, for producing this latrine.  You have recognized what too many fail to see — that making the world a better place is good for business.  It is my strong belief that when governments partner with nonprofit organizations and the private sector, we make a much larger impact than we could alone.  

When people lack safe sanitation, they are forced to resort to relieving themselves in the open or using other unhygienic practices.  This can lead to contamination of food and water sources and the spread of disease.

The toll on communities is enormous.  WASH-related diseases like diarrhea, cholera, and typhoid lead to loss of productivity, loss of income, and loss of life.  

These diseases are most threatening to children.  Every two minutes, somewhere in the world, a child dies due to a WASH-related disease.  Children worldwide lose more than 400 million school days each year because of WASH-related diseases.  Poor sanitation leads to the inability to absorb micronutrients, leading to stunting and malnutrition.  The bottom line is:  poor sanitation robs children of the chance to achieve their potential.

Moreover, poor sanitation exacerbates the spread of epidemics like Ebola — epidemics that threaten all of us.  

Here in Ghana, just 15 percent of people have access to improved sanitation.  Eighty-five percent of Ghanaians use unsafe sanitation — and 100 percent are vulnerable to WASH-related diseases.  

But the good news is, we CAN defeat this health hazard.  

Ghana is a priority country for USAID’s sanitation programming.  In just over two years, our WASH for Health Project has improved sanitation for more than 50,000 Ghanaians.

We have made the greatest gains through partnerships such as this one.  We partner with the Ghanaian government; American businesses like Coca Cola; nonprofit organizations like Rotary International and Global Communities; and Ghanaian businesses like Duraplast to leverage more resources, skills, and ties to communities.

It is very important to acknowledge the role of communities — improving sanitation is impossible without them.  At USAID, our approach is to educate communities on the importance of sanitation, and let them take the lead.

I have visited some of these communities, and have been nothing short of inspired.  I have seen chiefs mobilizing their communities to take control of their health.  I have seen teachers making sure all children in their classes know what to do to stay healthy.  And I have seen families banding together to build — and maintain — latrines.  

I know it is not easy.  Building latrines is difficult, time-consuming, and a tremendous expense for people in the deprived areas that need them most.  And maintaining these latrines is even more expensive and time consuming. The result?  Too many latrines gather dust, are overtaken by flies, and remain unused.  

That is why I’m so excited about the latrine we are launching today — known as the “Digni-loo.”  The Digni-loo is one-fifth of the cost of other latrines.  It takes mere minutes to install, is easy and free to maintain, and can last up to 20 years.  Perhaps most importantly, we have tested it in Ghanaian villages, and everyone from chiefs to farmers to people with disabilities say it makes going to the bathroom easier and safer.  

But even groundbreaking hardware like the Digni-loo is not a solution on its own.  Sweeping, sustainable change in Ghana will require millions of individuals to change their behaviors.  

That’s why I’m so excited to also be launching the WASH for Health Communication package.  This package contains everything from instruction manuals to games and radio dramas that educate people on the importance of behaviors such as

  • installing, using, and maintaining latrines;
  • handwashing with soap; and
  • treating water.  

We will be working with health and extension workers, to enable them to use these tools and to educate communities on simple changes they can make that facilitate a long, prosperous life.  

The esteemed Ghanaian diplomat Kofi Annan said, “No single measure would do more to reduce disease and save lives in the developing world than bringing safe water and adequate sanitation to all.”  I agree wholeheartedly.  I look forward to working with all of you toward this goal.  I have full confidence that if we all continue to collaborate, embrace innovation, and engage communities, we can make this vision a reality.  

Thank you.