Ghanaians embark on nationwide cleanup exercise

ACCRA – Thousands of Ghanaians on Saturday participated in a government-sponsored national cleanup exercise.

Known as the "National Sanitation Day", the event aims to inculcate in Ghanaians the spirit of cleanliness.

All across the ten regions of the country, people helped clean communities, streets and other public places.

Holding rakes, brooms and wheel barrows, participants scrubbed and swept. They cleared choked gutters and open drains that line most of Ghana's streets.

In doing this, participants were responding to an invitation by the Ministry for Local Government and Rural Development for Ghana's population of 25 million to help rid their country of "the filth engulfing it."

The cleanup takes place on the first Saturday of every month. The day was selected because it is the beginning of the weekend in Ghana.

Traders are required to leave their shops closed until the three to four-hour exercise comes to an end.

"My sisters and I woke up early in the morning and cleaned the whole house before coming out to help on the streets," Maame Sarfo, a resident of Old Fadama, a suburb of Accra, told The Anadolu Agency.

"I think it is a good thing because the rubbish is generated by us so there is nothing wrong with spending only one day out of the whole month to clear it," she added.

Bismarck Mensah, another campaign participant from the central Accra Kwame Nkrumah Circle, said he was simply obeying rules.

“I have a shop," Mensah said. "They [the authorities] say I should not open until we finish cleaning, which means that I don't have a choice," he added.

-Next to Godliness-

A third participant believed that the cleanup campaign was an application of religious texts.

"Cleanliness, they say, is next to Godliness," 25-year-old Ewurabena said outside her house in Abelenkpe, a district of the Greater Accra Region.

"That is what the scripture says so I see nothing wrong with coming out with my neighbors to clean. What is the point in wearing a neat dress and living in a dirty environment," she asked.

At the Kaneshie Market, a trading center in Accra, traders, mostly women, used long brooms to clean.

Other people used short brooms to sweep the drains running through the market.

Asabea, a vegetable seller, said the cleanup campaign was good for her.

"I don’t like it when flies settle on my vegetables," the seller said. "I know they spread cholera and I get worried. If we clean the area, it is better for us," she added.

Her colleague who sells banku and soup (a rustic, traditional preparation common to Ghana and containing eggplant, okra and cassava-based dumplings) ordered all her workers to come an hour earlier so that they could finish work in time before cooking for the day.

-Collaboration-

Local sanitation companies, including Zoomlion and Jekora Ventures, deployed personnel to various parts of the country to assist with the exercise.

The Environmental Service Providers Association, an association of waste-management companies, had instructed its 27 members to fully participate in the campaign and provide the equipment needed.

Association Executive Secretary, Ama Ofori Antwi, said she was impressed by the event, but expressed disquiet about the attitude of some people during it.

Antwi  told AA that some people had deliberately packed refuse in their homes only to bring it out on the National Sanitation Day to take advantage of the free refuse collection offered by waste-management companies.

"When the truck arrived, they started bringing out the refuse and dumping it inside," Antwi said.

"We were going to collect the waste gathered today, but we saw people come out with borla (rubbish) from their houses. People do not want to pay for such services," she added.

District assemblies across Ghana coordinated the campaign and provided the needed tools.

"Many people participated and it [the campaign] was very successful," Simpson Anim Boateng, the public health director in Accra, the capital of Ghana, said. "It will surely help prevent the cholera disease which has troubled us for the past months," he added.

He said he went around with his team to ensure that everybody participated, noting that he had to force some shoppers who were reluctant to participate to close down.

Ghana's President John Dramani Mahama took part in the exercise in Kumasi, the Ashanti Regional capital.

Other senior government officials and ministers also took part in the event.

Even with this, Local Government and Rural Development Minister, Julius Debrah, the national coordinator of the campaign, was disappointed that not so many people showed up for the exercise.

"Some of the elites in this country don’t even see the need for the exercise," Debrah told AA.

"So people have their rights, but we will make the efforts and hope that people will join the campaign," he added.

He said he could not enter everybody's home and force them to join the campaign.

He added, however, that his ministry would continue to organize the exercise every month, despite challenges in mobilizing the public to participate.

"We would have loved that by the end of the first quarter of next year, we have a good country to show," the minister said.

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