What is the Open Defecation-Free Ghana Campaign?

The Open Defecation-Free Ghana Campaign, often referred to as the ODF Ghana Campaign or the Sanitation Social Norms Campaign is a national partnership between government and civil society organizations in Ghana to campaign for a stop to open defecation in Ghana. At the same time, the campaign aims to promote the construction and use of household toilets as against the supply of communal toilets to communities.

About us

The ODF Campaign, launched in September 2017, is led by the Department for Community Development of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development. Main partners involved in the campaign include UNICEF, which provides funding and technical support, the Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources, Regional Coordinating Councils and various Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies in the Central, Northern, Upper East, Upper West and Volta Regions. It is expected that all other regions and districts will get involved in the campaign as soon as possible.

The problem

Ghana is a lively and lovely country to live in. The country is undoubtedly among the countries where freedom of speech is highly cherished and applied. Apart from sporadic scare of armed robbery, Ghanaians generally move about without fear. In terms of social interconnections, Ghana is one of the richest in the world. The people enjoy their freedom of religion without unnecessary interferences. Politically, the country has gone through seven consecutive general elections since 1992 and has transferred power from one ruling party to another on three occasions peacefully. The seemingly bi-polar political system, rather than create political turmoil as in many other countries, has quickly been understood as a game where you either win or lose. In spite of the country’s own economic challenges, the people in Ghana live a comparatively peaceful society.  Food and freshwater resources, though a global source of worry, to the ordinary Ghanaian, is not a major issue. According to the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP 2015), almost 90% of the people in Ghana drink from improved water sources.

In terms of access to basic sanitation, however, Ghana has a lot to worry about. All data sources point to a very negative situation. The beautiful country by most standards suddenly drops below its pride of a lower middle-income country status and joins the ten worst performing countries in the world, with only 15% of its population using improved household toilets. About 37% of the people are compelled to use public toilets, which are generally in poor condition. Worst of all, more than five million people practise open defecation, resulting in most of the country’s beaches, drains, bushes, and some potential tourist sites heavily polluted with human faeces. The Northern and Upper East Regions for instance have open defecation rates as high as about 70% of their respective populations. The impact is that almost every year there is a cholera outbreak, while close to 20,000 people die of diarrhoea annually. Economically, the country loses about $290 million every year due to poor management of the country’s sanitation.

Although a lot of efforts to improve on the country’s basic sanitation situation is on-going in communities throughout the country, the pace in especially getting more households to own toilets and making more communities to stop open defecation is dead slow. This is because between 1990 and 2015 access to improved household toilets increased from 8% to only 15%, while proportion of the population that practise open defecation reduced from 22% to 19%.

Worried by this state of affairs, the Government of Ghana, with support from its partners, is embarking on a massive nationwide sensitization campaign to highlight the dangers of poor sanitation and also the benefits of living in a sanitized environment, draw attention of public institutions and private businesses to opportunities in investing in sanitation. It is within this broad sanitation ambition that the ODF Ghana Campaign is anchored.

Main campaign objective

Our main objective for the ODF Ghana Campaign is to call for a stop to open defecation in Ghana. It is to mobilize policy makers, influential in society, notable sanitation champions, private businesses and investors, as the general public to join hands to eradicate the practice of open defecation.

Campaign vision

Our vision is to establish a new society where the norm for defecation is solely by using a toilet; where no one defecates on open spaces.

Reaching our vision

The ODF Ghana is hinged on a five-step Social Norms Framework that proposes eliminating open defaecation in Ghana through individual and collective behaviour change. Though there are on-going successful behaviour change interventions using social norms approaches, they have been limited in reaching large geographical areas. This particular campaign introduces a mass media dimension and mass mobilization as an extension of the current community-based approaches. This is expected to hasten the elimination of open defecation in the country and introduce the norm of always using a toilet. The campaign employs the following steps in the social norms framework:

  1. Consolidate the change in people’s personal attitudes towards and beliefs about open defecation.
  2. Support actions that seek to engage people in collective discussions and decisions to end open defecation.
  • Highlight collective discussions and decisions at all levels thereby heightening normative expectations that Ghanaians no longer approve of open defecation and would frown on the practice.
  1. Support the imposition of social sanctions on those who go against the new dispensation of ‘No Open Defecation.’
  2. Develop empirical expectations of people constructing latrines and using them finally resulting in empirical evidence that a new social norm has been created and has come to stay in Ghana.

Campaigning at the national level

Campaigning at the national level involves establishing partnerships with all like-minded public and private institutions, identifying and working with national level individual influencers and sanitation champions and organizing various public events, in addition to dissemination of key messages.

Campaigning at the regional level

Campaigning at the regional level involves establishing partnerships with all like-minded public and private institutions within various regions, identifying and working with regional level individual influencers and sanitation champions and organizing various public events, in addition to dissemination of key messages.

Campaigning at the district level

Campaigning at the district level involves establishing partnerships with all like-minded public and private institutions within partner districts, identifying and working with district level individual influencers and sanitation champions and organizing various public events, in addition to dissemination of key messages.

Campaigning at the community level

Campaigning at the community level involves working with community leadership including traditional authorities, Assembly Members, community volunteers, identifiable community groups and influencers in addition to on-going programmatic interventions in ridding communities of open defecation.

Campaign duration

The ODF Ghana Campaign is ongoing in nature. Once there is a sign of good progress during the first year, the campaign may be sustained until the whole country is open defecation-free (ODF).


The Campaign is supervised by a National Steering Committee made up of senior officials from the Sector Ministries, UNICEF and other partners. There is also a national Advisory Council made up of highly nationally respected personalities with demonstrated interest in sanitation issues. In addition, there are Sanitation Champions from national to district levels, who seize every opportunity to disseminate campaign messages. The campaign is also linked up with the on-going national Rural Sanitation (Promotion) Model, which adopts the Community-led Total Sanitation (CLTS) approach. This is where actual field-based operations take place by way of communities taking a collective decision to stop open defecation, and indeed constructing and using latrines at the household level.