Diarrhea kills 2,195 children each day, more than Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, malaria and measles combined, and nearly 11 percent of Ghana’s population relies on surface water — water that collects on the surface of the ground or top layer of a body of water — for their daily hydration needs. This water is unpurified and unsafe for human consumption, yet Ghanaians lack a safe alternative. Ghanaians who ingest surface water are at risk for water-related diseases, such as ever-deadly diarrhea.
Risk of Diarrhea
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, diarrhea is a global health concern with 1.7 billion cases occurring every year. Although diarrhea can affect any age-group, it is the second leading cause of death in children under the age of five; in fact, 2,195 child fatalities happen every day worldwide. The hygiene crisis in Ghana has escalated with diarrhea as the third leading cause of death for children under five, taking nearly 10,000 lives every year.
How Does Diarrhea Become Fatal?
Diarrhea depletes body fluids, causing dehydration, and children often die when they have lost too much water from their bodies.
Several organizations have implemented health initiatives to combat the hygiene crisis in Ghana. Preventing diarrhea is possible by increasing water availability and quality, distributing oral rehydration salts, breastfeeding infants until six months of age and educating the population on proper sanitization techniques.
UNICEF and IWASH
‘IWASH,’ UNICEF Ghana’s handwashing project, yields extremely promising results in entire villages in Ghana; the program educates schoolchildren on the health effects of not washing their hands. While touring a handwashing facility with 70 schoolchildren, District Resource Coordinator Issah-Bello said that students should share their knowledge in order to be an ambassador for behavior change and end the hygiene crisis in Ghana.
The Rehydration Project
The Rehydration Project cites oral rehydration salts, or ORS, as the most effective and least expensive way to combat diarrhoeal dehydration. ORS is a combination of dry salts mixed with clean water that replaces fluids lost from diarrhea. If ORS is unavailable, a homemade solution may be made with six teaspoons of sugar, one-half teaspoon of salt and one liter of clean water.
Breastfeeding infants until six months of age can reduce infants’ likelihood of contracting diarrhea because breastfeeding mothers do not prepare their infant’s formula with contaminated water.
Water.org believes that clean water is the way to end poverty, save lives and prepare for the future. Since 2009, Water.org has worked to increase access to safe drinking water and sanitization facilities in Ghana. The organization’s current project is expected to be completed in late 2017, and is in the process of constructing 61 water facilities.
Water.org has also reached 53,000 Ghanaians through water systems, health and hygiene education and borehole wells. With numerous solutions like these, the hygiene crisis in Ghana is well on its way to resolution.
– Carolyn Gibson