A study conducted by the Coalition of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in Water and Sanitation (CONIWAS), on the government’s nationwide Free Water programme which was aimed to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, has revealed that most poor communities did not benefit from the free water initiative.
The study was conducted in three randomly selected communities -Janman, Gonse, and Olebu all in the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area (GAMA) were to assess the extent to which access to safe water was achieved through the government free water policy.
It would be recalled that President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo on April 5, 20202 announced an emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic during, which he declared the provision of free potable water to the entire Ghanaian populace should be free of charge.
The directive, which lasted for almost 15 months in two phases, was targeted at all water users and lifeline customers of the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL).
Findings from CONIWAS’s study clearly show that the free water policy was not carefully thought through before its implementation since the very people (poor) who benefited from the policy did not benefit.
Presenting a policy brief on the initiative at a press conference in Accra on Friday, the Chairman of CONIWAS, Mr. Yaw Atta Arhin, called for broader consultation and engagement with stakeholders on the part of the government when drafting such policies in the future.
“For future interventions regarding emergencies, there should be adequate consultations with stakeholders to establish clear modalities for facilitating the implementation of the intervention.” He reiterated.
The study said the participation and involvement of Civil Society Organisations in future programmes would be strategic in fashioning out guidelines and implementation of water policies and directives.
The Chairman of CONIWAS disclosed that GWCL needed to have had a clear pro-poor strategic policy and procedures that would address special vulnerabilities beyond the broader Low-Income Customer Support Unit (LICSU) geographic targeting approach.
He also called for increased financing and investment in the water and sanitation sector, stating that such investments should focus on the extension or replacement of obsolete water distribution lines in low-income communities in the whole country.
Mr. Arhin said the government should develop a good monitoring mechanism for such initiatives to track progress, achievements, and challenges and establish feedback mechanisms for reporting to the public.
He further recommended that the GWCL and Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA) develop one comprehensive pro-poor policy for the water sector for water provision, which addressed the weaknesses of future directives last year.
CONIWAS proposed that the current review of the National Water Policy should explicitly mention mechanisms for targeting and addressing the safe water needs of poor and vulnerable groups.
“Government’s assessment of the initiate shows that the average monthly water supply to domestic users increased by 44.5 percent from 9,240.495m3 to 13,351,853m3,” he said.
According to Mr. Arhin increase in the water supply to domestic users meant that GWCL ensured the regular flow of water amidst increased demands for handwashing and other domestic chores during the period.
Story: Franklin ASARE-DONKOH