Following intense advocacy and assistance by the United Nations Children’s Fund, funded by the European Union, five Local Government Areas in Nigeria have achieved Open Defecation Free status.
This was revealed at a Two Day Media Dialogue on Water Sanitation and Hygiene, holding in Awka, the Anambra state capital.
The media dialogue was organised by The Child Rights Information Bureau of the Federal Ministry of Information in collaboration with UNICEF.
Speaking at the opening of the dialogue, the Nigerian minister of Information, Lai Muhammed, who was represented by Deputy Director Child Right Information Bureau, Olumide Osanyinpeju said that UNICEF and EU have been in the forefront of ensuring that Nigerians have access to safe drinking water supply, adequate sanitation and proper hygiene in the environment and communities.
“I therefore commend UNICEF, EU and other groups for their partnership with the Federal Government of Nigeria. Their continuous and huge support in ensuring that safe water, sanitation and hygiene are brought to the rural people of Nigeria through the WASH Programme is highly commendable. The issue of safe water and sanitation has been in the front burner of development issues in Nigeria because it affects a major segment of our society, a lot of whom are children,” he said.
The minister also said that Water, Sanitation and Hygiene is very important in the life of a Child.
“The Sustainable Development Goal 6 clearly emphasises the importance of clean water and sanitation. Water and Sanitation are essential for the survival and development of all children, while simple Hygienesuch as hand washing can save lives. You are all aware that this Project has been on-going in the past five years because we have been a part of it through this media dialogue. A lot of milestone has also been achieved, and a lot still needs to be done considering the fact that we are yet to attain that level where we can confidently say that our communities all have safe water, sanitation and hygiene. It is to this effect that this media dialogue is organized,” Lai Muhammed said.
He reminded the participants that their concerted efforts are still needed to push the course further through their stories in order to address the gaps which have been identified to support provision of safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene in our communities in Nigeria.
“Your technical guidance for the media on WASH issues, through sharing of information and experience on the subject matter cannot be over emphasized. Your encouragement and empowerment of journalists in our communities to prioritize reportage about clean water supply, sanitation and hygiene in our communities is highly solicited to boost health services across the country,” he appealed.
He noted that it has become imperative for all, especially journalists to rise up for the advocacy of WASH, as children in our society can make the difference between life and death.
‘Distinguished Ladies and gentlemen, I urge you through your writings, features and commentaries, to address the problems in the area of safe drinking water, adequate sanitation and proper hygiene especially in the six project States of Anambra, Cross River, Osun, Jigawa, Kano and Yobe with a view to repositioning the water and sanitation sector through enhanced water governance and improved water, sanitation and hygiene promotion services delivery.
As journalists being presented with facts of data on the status of WASH in these areas, I enjoin you to use the medium at your disposal to educate the populace with the WASH situation in Nigeria with particular reference to child development, and well-being of our communities. Use your expertise to increase the knowledge among community members to upgrade Local Government Areas’ WASH Units, to WASH Departments, and strengthen the capacity to implement rural WASH projects. Increase access to safe and sustainable water supply services in the rural communities of these selected LGAs of Anambra, Cross River, Jigawa, Kano, Osun and Yobe States; and establish a state level monitoring and evaluation system linked to the national Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) system,” he added.
In her presentation titled “Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Situation in Nigeria; Its Critical Role in Health, Nutrition and Education” a UNICEF WASH Specialist, Maiga Moono Banda, said that lack of sanitation facilities has lead to children dropping out of schools and women’s life endangered.
She urged the government to tackle sanitation to protect children and keep woken out of danger.
Similarly, Mr. Jonathan Ekhator, said that to achieve More open Defecation Free communities, every actor needs to be on board.
“We need everybody to come together. We need serious awareness. We need massive campaign in the communities. It’s a behaviour change thing. It’s usually very difficult but it’s not impossible,” he said.
In Anambra state, there’s a Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency, RUWASSA.
The agency works with UNICEF and the EU to implement WASH projects in the state.
The Director General of the agency, Mr. Victor Ezekwo, said that the agency has provided potable water to most rural communities in the state.
He however lamented that vandals who steal some of the facilities are slowing down the work of the agency.