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UNICEF engages teachers, natural leaders for improved access to hygiene


Determined to improve access to improved sanitation and hygiene and ensure Open Defecation Free (ODF) societies, the United Nation Children Fund (UNICEF) has engaged the services of teachers and natural leaders.

UNICEF engaged 478 natural leaders from Yakurr Local Government Area (LGA) of Cross River State in two day training for supportive monitoring of Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) activities.

Natural Leaders usually emerge during the Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) triggering process, when they volunteer to help their communities achieve ODF status. They are the first people identified by CLTS facilitation teams for post triggering follow up, and often become leading members of the WASH Committee (WASHCOM) that the communities elect after triggering.

Also, in pursuit of the Cross River State and National Road Map to the Elimination of Open Defecation by 2025 and achievement of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 targets in water and sanitation by 2030, UNICEF supported Yakurr LGA in Cross River State to commemorate World Toilet Day 2016.

World Toilet Day is an annual global event that holds on November 19 of every year. The aim of World Toilet Day is to raise awareness about the people in the world who don’t have access to a toilet, despite the fact that it is a human right to have clean water and sanitation. On this day people are encouraged to take action and help promote the idea that more needs to be done. The theme for World Toilet Day (WTD) 2016 is Toilets and Jobs.

Also, UNICEF has engaged school teachers and members of the Parent Teachers’ Associations (PTAs) and School Based Management Committees (SBMCs) for guiding pupils to imbibe and promote hygiene in schools.

UNICEF Consultant to Yakurr LGA at the engagement and implementation meeting, Collins Njoku, said: “The entire 239 communities of Yakurr LGA have attained ODF status. Post ODF monitoring and follow up for strengthening and sustainability to prevent a relapse and further provide a springboard for ODF celebration and progress to total sanitation is an issue of concern. To address these and more, calls for the involvement of all major CLTS stakeholders including traditional rulers and natural leaders who emerge during CLTS triggering process. In the main, monitoring, follow up and evaluation, which ensures that results are achieved and sustained is a key process in programme, project and activity implementation.”

Njoku said with WASHCOMs, the natural leaders play a vital role in motivating and guiding their communities through the challenging process of behaviour change required to end open defecation (OD). “Natural leaders often go on to play other important roles beyond the remit of the WASHCOMs, innovating toilet designs, acting as role models for climbing the sanitation ladder, spreading the word to other communities as advocates of CLTS, and as facilitators themselves. By so doing natural leaders play a critical role in the spread and acceptance of the gospel of CLTS. They are not alone,” he said.

Meanwhile, Njoku said teachers and PTAs/SBMCs needed to be oriented on the revised strategy and guideline for promotion of hygiene in schools and through schools in communities.

He explained: “The guidelines for hygiene promotion in and through schools is designed to provide a step by step guide for the implementation of hygiene promotion in schools. It was important that the teachers and PTAs/SBMCs have a good understanding of the guidelines for effective rollout. The LGA extension staff needed to be also carefully taken through the implementation logic to appreciate how all the components of WASH fit as a complete picture that is painted in measured steps with one block building on the other.

“It became imperative to train the teachers to establish the necessary institutional structure in the school and support the organization of necessary activities to ensure effective hygiene promotion in the school to the extent that the schools are able to influence hygiene and sanitation improvements in the surrounding communities while the LGEA Schools Supervisors will maintain steady monitoring of the hygiene promotion activities in the course of their routine schools supervision.”

Njoku said both natural leaders and the entire WASHCOMs need the support of the traditional institution personified by the traditional rulers who are the custodians of the people’s culture and tradition and gate keepers to achieve program results including community ownership and sustainability of programmes. “But often times there is conflict and poor or no support from the traditional rulers to WASHCOMs arising from disconnect in communication and understanding of the roles and responsibilities of WASHCOMs,” he said.

The UNICEF consultant, however, said some challenges were encountered. He said some stakeholders still believe and wish that government should build household and community latrines for them because they are poor. Njoku said there is lack of sewage dislodging vehicle for sanitary evacuation of soak-away and septic pits and expectation of financial incentives by some WASHCOMs.

The meeting recommended: monitoring and follow up activities by the LGA on agreed action points; government to provide its counterpart fund in a dedicated account; and continuous sensitization and retriggering with the use of SIDA approach.

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