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UNICEF, Cross River conduct water, sanitation, hygiene clinic in Yakurr

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The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund’s (UNICEF) supported Water Supply and Sanitation Sector Reform Programme (WSSSRP) II in Nigeria has conducted Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Clinic in Yakurr Local Government Area (LGA) of Cross River State.

Cross River State and Yakurr LGA are beneficiaries of WSSSRP II, which is scheduled to wind up by May 2019.UNICEF WASH Consultant for Yakurr LGA, Collins Njoku, told journalists that it became expedient that a WASH Clinic be conducted to review progress and achievements made, identify best practices, success stories, challenges and bottlenecks and agree on way forward to close identified gaps and plan for effective community program ownership and community actions for sustainability.

Njoku said the WASH programme in Nigeria has promoted access to improved sources of drinking water, access to improved sanitation, safe disposal of adults and children excreta, use of hand washing stations, soap and water, access to improved menstrual hygiene management, equity in water and sanitation. He said all these have translated into reduction of diseases and deaths, poverty reduction, promotion of community and public health and livelihoods and improved community management processes.

The theme of the WASH Clinic is appropriately Sustainability Plan for Programme Exit.The four day event which took place at Yakurr Council Hall Ugep Headquarters from Tuesday 15th to Friday 18th January 2019 drew participants across the State and LGA disaggregated into males and females consisting of Cross River State Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency RUWASSA, traditional, religious and political leaders, youth and women groups, water and sanitation committees (WASHCOMs), volunteer hygiene promoters (VHPs) and water safety teams (WSTs).

In keeping with the Expanded Partnership for WASH (PEWASH) and the new Convergence in WASH service delivery, the Primary Health Care Department, Environmental Health and Education Units of Yakurr Local Government Council, Local Government Education Authority, School Heads and Supervisors, Ugep Urban Development Authority (UUDA), National Population Commission (NPC), National Orientation Agency (NOA), Non- Governmental Organizations, Civil Society Organizations and private service providers such as Local Area Mechanics in borehole maintenance and Sanitation Entrepreneurs were also part of the WASH Clinic.

Key activities included goodwill messages from key stakeholders such as UNICEF, RUWASSA, PHC, LGEA, UUDA, WASHCOM Federation; presentation of reports and scorecards on WASHCOMs functionality, review of WASH activities, achievements and benefits; identification of success stories, best practices and challenges and development of action points and sustainability plan for program exit; sensitization on prevention and management of diarrhea by PHC, birth registration by National Population Commission (NPC) and process of voting by National Orientation Agency (NOA) and Independent National Election Commission (INEC) respectively.

The UNICEF consultant said key challenges identified were poor community ownership of the WASH program, lack of government counterpart funding and Open Defecation Free (ODF) sustainability issues and concerns and exit strategies deliberated upon were post ODF sustainability and progress to total sanitation, climbing the sanitation ladder, sanitation marketing and financing, WASH facilities and structures functionality, mainstreaming WASH into the annual Ugep/Yakurr Leboku (New Yam) Festival; commemoration of Annual Yakurr LGA ODF Day and Stakeholders convergence, collaboration and partnership in WASH services delivery.

It is on record that Yakurr LGA is the third LGA in Nigeria but the first LGA under European Union (EU)/UNICEF WASH programme support in Nigeria to achieve ODF status which was celebrated on 18th May 2018. The main purpose of facilitating a community and LGA to be ODF is to improve the health of the people by providing a clean and safe environment and breaking the cycle of faecal-oral route of disease transmission. This naturally calls for sustaining the gains achieved from ODF to prevent loss of the investments made in achieving ODF. This also brings in the sustainability aspect of water and sanitation. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 6 for WASH envisages universal access to improved access to water and sanitation in a sustainable manner by 2030.

Njoku said: “Viewed from this perspective, it is essential to expect and rightly so that the WASH programme runs on auto pilot mode in beneficiary communities and LGAs when and if donors withdraw their technical and financial support. A necessary condition for this to happen is that communities and entire LGA maintain their ODF status and continue to move up the sanitation ladder and ensure functionality of their improved and safe water facilities, among others. Water is life! Sanitation is dignity!”


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