Residents of Bunbuazio in the East Mamprusi municipality have expressed their anger towards the North East Regional Director of the Ghana Health Service, Dr Abdulai Abubakari, for asking that they turn a mosque under construction into a public toilet facility.
The community has recently been hit by typhoid fever disease resulting in the death of at least five persons and many others undergoing treatments, the health service confirmed.
The cause of the disease has been associated with the community’s source of drinking water and lack of a proper sanitation system.
According to the community’s local assembly representative, the disease was first detected in 2019, but the residents did not report it to the health authorities in the East Mamprusi municipality until last year when the disease killed the third person, an 80-year-old man, at the Nalerigu Baptist Medical Centre.
The reason is that the community of more than 1,600 people has no healthcare centre and the people are compelled to depend on only local native doctors and quack practitioners for their health needs.
The nearest health centre which is located in Langbinsi, about 5kms away and accessible only to motorbikes and donkey carts, is also ill-resourced and understaffed and therefore unable to serve its purposes.
Residents are forced to depend mainly on stream water as the yield of the borehole is insufficient to meet their demands.
In addition, due to the unavailability of a toilet facility in the community, the residents resorted to defecating and dumping rubbish along the stream.
After a JoyNews report exposed the situation, the Ghana Health Service in the region quickly sent a team of investigators who later confirmed the typhoid fever disease caused by the contaminated stream water.
As a follow-up, the Regional Director led a team from the health directorate and allied agencies such as the Community Water and Sanitation Agency, to embark on an in-depth field inspection and to sensitize the members of the community.
It was during this sensitisation meeting that the Health Director, totally appalled by the level of filth and lack of personal hygiene, passed the comment while addressing the crowd.
Dr Abdulai was addressing the gathering held at the chief palace, on the need to stop open defecation, when he saw a group of young men nearby busily building a mosque.
“You have the responsibility to keep your surroundings clean. No one will come from elsewhere to do it for you. Are you waiting for someone to do it for you?” Dr Abdulai asked the residents in the native Dagbani language.
“As you are building the mosque, did someone ask you to do it? Left to me, you should be building a toilet turn into a toilet facility,” the Health Director said to the crowd.
Other officials of the team at the meeting supported the Director’s comment, with one official head saying; “Islam is a religion of purity and cleanliness is next to godliness, so what’s religious about building a place of worship and ending up virtually defecating in it because you do have a toilet in your community?”
The Director’s comment drew an unpleasant response from the crowd as they murmured in protest with at least one young man storming out of the meeting.
The angry young man later said: “We thought they have come here to help us. He’s talking about responsibility, is it not their responsibility too to provide us health centre? Where is our hospital? Are we not part of Ghana? Do you see any toilet here? Why can’t he ask the assembly to build a toilet for us, and why can’t he bring medical supplies to Langbinsi clinic?”.
There was a protest also from the men at the construction site of the mosque. One of them shouted in Mampruli; “We won’t welcome him here”.
The chief had to intervene to calm the residents who condemned the director’s statement as “spiteful” and “irresponsible”.
“What he said should be taken as an insult. He was only showing the way to secure our lives. But my plea to them is not getting more boreholes”, the said.
“So you haven’t insulted us. I know who care about our wellbeing, that’s why you came all the way to meet us. We appreciate your effort but we appeal for potable drinking water”.
Dr Abdulai asked the residents to direct their question to the municipal health director.
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