Coping with Water Insecurity in Urban Ghana: Health Implications and Intervention Outcomes During Covid-19

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Achore, Meshack
Water , Water insecurity , Coping strategies , Inequality , Psycho-emotional distress , COVID-19 , sub-Sahara Africa , Ghana , Cities , Accra , Tamale , Slums
Background: Population growth poses a significant challenge for governments and other stakeholders regarding governance and the provision of water services. These challenges in recent years have been exacerbated by other factors such as climate change, and the COVID-19 pandemic. In the face of water insecurity, urban poor households cope by resorting to alternative sources of water outside of their premises for daily survival. Yet research in this area remains limited, particularly within the African context. Objective: The research focused on four broad objectives: objective 1 explores water insecurity coping strategies employed by individuals and households and factors that shape households’ choice of coping strategies; objective 2 explores local coping resources and strategies employed by Ghanaian households to deal with water insecurity; objective 3 examines patterns and relationships between perceptions of water inequality and psychoemotional distress; and objective 4 examines the impacts of socio-political factors on access to water, including government welfare programs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods: A mixed-method approach – involving a meta-ethnographic review, household survey and in-depth interviews – was used in the research. Results: In chapter 4, I found that households employ nine key coping strategies, some of which include water storage, water sharing and borrowing, buying water from private vendors, water management and reuse. The determinants of these coping strategies include distance to a water source, gender, and income. Chapter 5 revealed that water insecure households were more likely to use behavioral coping strategies, physical coping strategies and a mix of behavioral and physical coping strategies. Compared to the wealthy, the less wealthy were less likely to employ a mix of behavioral and physical coping strategies. Chapter 6 showed that wealth, the number of people in a household, and perceived inequalities are significant predictors of psycho-emotional distress. Further, the findings show that households were less likely to experience psycho-emotional distress if they felt that safe water facilities were equally distributed. Chapter 7 uncovered that COVID-19 exacerbated water insecurity issues in Ghana in many ways including limiting water source visits for fear of contracting the virus. Most participants did not benefit from the six months of free water instituted by the government of Ghana. Implication: From a policy perspective, it is recommended that while policymakers are looking for long-term solutions to water insecurity, some of the coping strategies identified in this thesis, such as water reuse and purification, could be encouraged as supplementary strategies to meet households' immediate water needs. In addition, water service providers should be subjected to a rigid state-level framework that ensures inclusivity, fairness, and justice in their distribution systems.
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