Rural communities and media practitioners including Civil Society Organizations have agreed on a partnership to end open defecation in Nigeria.
The arrangement was reached after a five-day zonal workshop on the implementation of community, water, sanitation and hygiene also known as WASHCOM jointly organized by Nigeria’s Ministry of Water Resources and the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF.
The workshop, which was attended by representatives of communities, Civil Society Organizations and some media practitioners, was held in Calabar, Cross River State, southern Nigeria.
Participants, who were drawn from Bauchi, Cross River, Jigawa and Plateau States, pilots for the WASH programme, harped on the need for communities to freely provide relevant information as well as articulate their needs for dissemination.
Some of the participants emphasized that the collaboration would enhance sustainability of the reform programme and engage governments at all levels.
Esther Chindaba, a member of WASH Media Network from Plateau State, stressed: “This has been a great learning experience for us. We have learnt more about the current situation of WASH in our various States.”
A journalist from Cross River State, David Agabi, in a comment said: “Tt is obvious that our global community challenges are the environment and sanitation besides others. Our sustainability, wealth hinges on our deliberate effort at creating a healthy and serene environment.”
During presentations at the workshop, George Ugbong, the UNICEF WASH Officer on Accountability and Sustainability, stated that 72 million Nigerians were without access to water, 142 million people without sanitation, while about 50 million practice open defecation and 46.1 million drink unsafe water.
Ugbong noted that these situations resulted to outbreaks of diseases, such as diarrhea and cholera particularly among children, who incidentally suffer from malnutrition and stunted growth.
He explained that UNICEF’s involvement in the community, water, sanitation and hygiene programme was to enhance “access to safe water and hygiene as well as supports governments at Federal and State levels to strengthen institutions for effective service delivery to communities through the citizens.”
According to Ugbong, UNICEF need the government to scale up the pilot programme through adequate budgetary allocations and being responsive to the demands of the citizens.
The officer further advised communities “to be involved in voicing their needs, and be more responsive in dealing with issues that they as citizens can address. They equally must maintain and sustain services, which have been provided and tackle open defecation issues.”
On the importance of media, Ugbong said: “We need the media to communicate the need for change and how such change can be brought about to the communities. We also need the media to help the communities amplify their voices and bring their demands to the attention of the authorities.”
The forum agreed that efforts must be geared towards increased access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene in fulfillment of the Sustainable Development Goals, SDG, target by 2030.