Notes to broadcasters
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Water, they say, is life! Sanitation is also described as a way of life, and is defined as the means of preventing human contact with the hazard of human waste in order to promote health. Clean water helps create good sanitation and better hygiene. This, in turn leads to good health. Poor sanitation, water and hygiene have many serious repercussions. Children – and particularly girls – are denied their right to education because their schools lack private and clean sanitation facilities. Women are forced to spend large parts of their day fetching water. Poor farmers and wage earners are less productive due to water-related illnesses, health systems are overwhelmed, and national economies suffer. Without safe water, good sanitation and hygiene, sustainable development is impossible.
In this script, a village is plagued by a serious water-related disease problem. The problem is resolved through the efforts of the local people in collaboration with the local authority.
The story follows an exciting process of identifying the source of the problem, and the eventual cooperation of the local people to deal with the problem. A village leader and other community members relate the story to a radio host. The story talks about villagers, including children, with blood in their urine. This is a classic symptom of schistosomiasis, a disease caused by human urination or defecation into a body of water, and the infective agent then penetrating the skin of another human.
The following script can be adapted by any community to deal with a similar situation. It can also be adapted and translated by radio stations to suit their local conditions.
This script is based on actual interviews, conducted with villagers in Ghana. To produce this script on your station, you might choose to use voice actors to represent the villagers, and change the wording in the script to make it suitable for your local situation. If so, please make sure to tell your audience at the beginning of the program that the voices are those of actors, not the original people involved in the interview, and that the program has been adapted for your local audience, but is based on real interviews.
Nana Kwaku Forkuo: a village elder and opinion leader
Maa Fatima: woman opinion leader
Benedict Agyei Boahen: Member of Parliament for the area
Vanessa Gyamfuah Agyei Boahen: the assembly member of the local council
Some children in the village
Cue in signature tune to begin the broadcast. The signature tune fades after 30 seconds and dissolves under the voice of the host.
Good morning, listeners, you are welcome to today’s broadcast of the program, Farmers’ Forum. Today we are going to hear how the people of Fiaso, a settlement in the Brong Ahafo region of central Ghana, successfully solved their water and sanitation problems. These problems were caused by their careless dumping of waste into the river, and by animals using the same source of drinking water as humans. In Fiaso, the river served not only as the source of drinking water, but was also used for domestic chores and for farming. Fortunately, the village was able to identify the problem and use local experience, with the help of the local authority, to solve it.
This broadcast is based on extensive interviews with community members and other important stakeholders in the development of the community. We will hear from Nana Kwaku Forkuo, an opinion leader in Fiaso, when we return in 20 seconds.
Sounds of children playing, followed by clearing of throat of an elderly person, fetching of water and others bathing.
Listeners, you are welcome back. Nana Forkuo, how did the problems start in Fiaso?
It was in mid-June three years ago. The rains had started. It rained almost every day and night. The Fia River was full and had flooded the fields. Cattle, sheep and goats had green pastures to graze. Children were swimming in the river in the afternoons. Women washed their clothing and cookware at the shores of the river. Young girls were drawing water for household chores. Then one morning, I heard that some school children had started urinating blood. Reports also came that people from our community had visited the municipal hospital with stomach problems such as diarrhea, dysentery and typhoid. Later, nurses confirmed that the problem was contaminated water. At first, community members were reluctant to believe that the river was the problem. Secondly, we could not identify the exact source of the pollution.
How were you finally able to identify the source of the contamination?
NANA FORKUO :
An Environmental Health Officer explained to us that our refuse dump, which is in the upper part of the river, was partly to blame for the pollution. The river flows almost entirely around the community and, when it rains, almost all waste flows into it. We saw that our actions were responsible for the contamination of the river. We cooperated with the health authorities who took water samples. Their investigations proved that our source of water was polluted by some villagers dumping faeces and refuse into the river.
We talked to community members and realized that they had accepted responsibility. They accepted that their actions were the cause of the health problems in the town, and that there was an urgent need to solve them.
The Environmental Health Officer helped us to understand that we needed another source of drinking water, possibly a borehole, while we dealt with the pollution problem. Children were advised not to swim in the river at certain times of the year. The assembly member was asked to contact the Member of Parliament for the area and the local authority for help. Community members, with the help of the Environmental Health Officer, zoned the river for different activities. For example, the upper part of the river – which was outside the polluted region – was set aside for drinking and cooking water. The middle portion was to be used only for washing and other household chores. A portion of the middle lower part of the river was zoned for children to swim in, but only during the dry seasons. And the lower part of the river was set aside for cattle and other grazing livestock. The refuse dump was relocated far away to stop polluted water from reaching the river.
This sounds like a good plan!
Yes. At first it was very difficult for the women to work with the plan because the refuse dump was relocated far away. Although the borehole was eventually provided, it took the community members some time before they were able to follow this new plan.
Thank you, Nana Forkuo. Now let’s listen to some other community members. First, let’s speak with Maa Fatima, a community women’s leader.
Ten second musical interlude that fades under the guest’s voice
I did not know that the water we drink everyday needs to be protected until my youngest son started vomiting one morning. Our visit to the hospital showed that my son’s sickness was due to contaminated water. We have only one source of drinking water, the Fia River, so I knew there was a problem with the river. Many children in the community got dysentery, typhoid, bilharzia and other water-related problems. But from the time the river was divided into different zones the number of water-related diseases lowered substantially.
Thank you, Maa Fatima. Now let’s talk with the assembly member for the area, Madam Vanessa Agyei Boahen. Madam, how did you help?
I first heard about children urinating blood and others suffering from diarrhea and other ailments in early July, three years ago. I quickly relayed this information to the Health Directorate at the municipality. They sent a team to investigate, and discovered that the problem was the river.
First, a refuse dump near the upper part of the river was relocated to avoid water seeping from the dump to the river. Secondly, the Member of Parliament for the area, with the help of the assembly, saw the need to provide a borehole for the community, so that drinking water would not be drawn from the river. Thirdly, we organized communal labour to redirect runoff from the community to the lower part of the river where the water is used by animals. Fourthly, special types of grass, as well as acacia and mahogany trees, were planted along the upper part of the river. These plants hold the soil in place and provide shade which cools the river, and this discourages germs from thriving. Backed by massive education on good sanitation practices, which was offered to the villagers by the Environmental Health Officers, the situation has now improved.
Ten second musical interlude, including children’s voices in school, which fades under the host’s voice
Let’s now talk to some children. Hi children, how are you? Have any of you been sent to the hospital recently?
We are fine, thank you! (One of them starts to answer the question) My name is Abubakar Salifu, and I am in class five at school. About three years ago, I went with my friends to swim in the river. After about a week, I started to have pains when urinating. Then later, I realized my urine was blood-stained. The same thing happened to most of my friends. Some of them were even vomiting and had diarrhea. Some nurses came and we were sent to the hospital and given some tablets which stopped the blood-stained urine. We were also told not to swim in the river and to keep our environment clean.
How do you keep your environment clean?
In lots of ways. By sweeping our compounds, by collecting rubbish in a dust bin and not throwing it around, by defecating in a toilet and not in the open, and by cleaning our hands with soap after visiting the toilets, before eating, and after doing any work on the ground.
That’s good of all of you! (Pause) Dear listeners, I hope that you have learned something from the experience of the people of Fiaso. Remember that today’s broadcast talked about how to identify water and sanitation problems and how to deal with them in a local way. Know that sanitation is a way of life, and that it should be observed in all aspects of human life: clean homes, hygienic defecation, clean farms, clean neighbourhoods, and clean water will surely give us healthy, long and happier lives. Until the same time next week, I am your host, Kwabena Agyei. It’s bye for now.
Contributed by: Kwabena Agyei, Production Manager, Classic FM, Techiman, Ghana, a Farm Radio International radio partner.
Reviewed by: Alan Etherington, independent consultant in water, sanitation and hygiene promotion, and ex-WaterAid staff.
Thanks to Kadiatou Haidara, WaterAid.
Interviews with Nana Kwaku Forkuo, Maa Fatima and Vanessa Gyamfuah Bohane, July 21, 2008; interviews with children in the village, July 27, 2008; interview with M K. Asare, Manager, Ghana Water Company, Techiman, August 14, 2008; interviews with Benedict Agyei Boahen, Mr Karim Mohammed, (Environmental Health Officer, Techiman), and Mr. Yaw Donyina (Chief Executive, Techiman), September 1, 2008.