Public discourses on sanitation and the urban poor in Accra, Ghana

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Massey University
Accra is a rapidly developing city, where urban planning and provision of public services has not kept up with demand. The city struggles with poor sanitation, where often uncollected refuse blocks open storm and wastewater drains, and the majority of people do not have pipe water or access to safe toilet facilities. Access to sanitation services are a basic human right, but for the urban poor, who live in densely populated, under-served urban settlements, these rights are not being realised. This study focuses on urban poverty and sanitation in Accra, by exploring public discourses around these issues. It is particularly focused on discourses related to a major disaster event which occurred on June 3rd, 2015, where mass flooding and a fire caused in part by drain blockages in Accra, resulted in about 150 deaths. This study has used a rights-based framework in analysing newspaper articles covering sanitation during the disaster aftermath and following years. This study found that there were dominating discourses of responsibility and blame with authorities emphasising Accra residents’ personal responsibly for sanitation. These results were brought into a context of understanding how these discourses and the inaction on improving the sanitation situation have affected the urban poor. Poor sanitation access is a consequence of urban poverty. This research shows Accra has a long way to go in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals related to urban poverty.