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UNICEF, European Union fight open defecation, boost water, sanitation in Niger Delta communities

By Emeka Anuforo, Abuja and Inemesit Akpan-Nsoh, Uyo
03 November 2016   |   3:33 am
As part of efforts to fight some killer disease, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the European Union (EU)have joined forces to check open defecation ...


As part of efforts to fight some killer disease, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the European Union (EU)have joined forces to check open defecation and also boost water and sanitation in Niger Delta States of Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo and Rivers.

Officials said the project known as Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Project (RWSSP) has been aligned with the overall objective of the Niger Delta Support Programme (NDSP), which is to mitigate the conflict in the Niger Delta by addressing the main causes of the unrest and violence.

The Project Purpose or Specific Objective is to support rural water and sanitation institutions in the five project States (Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo and Rivers) to deliver sustainable water supply and sanitation services.

The Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programme is promoted by EU/UNICEF and serves as advocacy medium for government to institutionalize effective hand washing in schools, public institutions and communities.

UNICEF notes that the decision to focus attention in these states these states may not be unconnected with the popular believe that un-healthy sources of water can lead to certain avoidable diseases such as diarrhea or pneumonia, dysentery and the likes which is usually associated with children and or women in rural communities.

It is also observed that in some rural ‎communities with functional health care facilities, the highest numbers of in-patients are children because of being attacked by these diseases. This it is said to have been responsible for a yearly mortality rate of about 1.8million for children under the age of five, especially in rural communities without primary healthcare facilities.

Again, for the advocacy to gather global momentum, the UN in its wisdom sets aside October 15 of every year, to commemorate World Hand Washing Day.

In Akwa Ibom state this day was well observed with the theme, “Make Hand washing a habit.”

Speaking with The Guardian of the awareness so far created among the people of the two local government areas where the programme is being piloted in the state, the NSIT ATAI LGA facilitator, Mr. Terlumun Ashile, explained that, when they first visited the communities, it was noticed that the people had pre knowledge on sanitation issues, but that critical aspects were not followed.

“But with the introduction of this programme up to this time, there has been appreciable change in line with the best practice. For example; the issue of having cover for pit latrines and hand-washing facilities being attached to the toilet facilities.”

“Before now the practice was going to the kitchen to wash hands after visiting the latrine, when we came we told them that it is better to wash hands at the point of defecation and so we construct hand washing facility at the point of usage.”

Ashile further explained that, on the issue of disposing of waste matter on an open space, “It was still disposed openly, we showed the communities on how to go about it and they agree to adopt the best practices, the communities are coping fine and we need to push them, we can say we have achieve 85 percent compliance.”

He said that, Nsit Atai had 63 communities out of which 30 of these communities have claimed to be Open Defecation Free (ODF).

According to him monitoring of other communities was ongoing, hoping that by the end of at least 20 more communities are expected to have achieved milestones in ending Open defecation.

“Our target is that before the end of this year a total of 50 communities will come to tell us that their communities cannot defecate on the open place again”.

He explained that the program, sponsored by European Union (EU)/UNICEF, is intended to foster and support a global and local culture of hand washing with soap as that would help in the control and prevention of diseases.

The chairman of Ikot Obio Akpan Water Sanitation and Hygiene Communities, (WASHCOM) in Nsit Atai, Mr. Francis Okon, explained that, since the introduction of the programmee they have been receiving lectures, seminars on how to keep their environment clean and safe for the people.

“They have been visiting us to make assessment to see how far we have understand what they have taught us; I have been going from house to house and instruct my; people on what to do, I was in the primary school two day ago to see how the pupils are complying to the instructions given them,” he noted

He explained that there are 63 WASHCOM in the local government area, adding that, the people of the pilot LGAs have been enlightened on how to construct and carry out group hand washing using Tippy Taps methods.

Assessing the programme so far in the state, ‎ General Manager of Akwa Ibom Rural Water and Sanitation Agency (AK-RUWATSAN), Elder Effiong Essien, noted that the programme had created a lot of impact in the two pilot LGAs.

“The programme is very impactful; in the two local government areas. We have Water Sanitation and Hygiene Communities (WASHCOM) in all the 137 villages in the two council areas,” he noted.

Essien further explained that the people of these areas were expectant of the actual construction of the water and sanitation facilities in their areas.

“So they want to see the final lap of what we have been talking about in the past two to three years, which should be the construction of the water sanitation facilities”.

On why the programme has not been extended to other 29 council areas of the state, he explained, “The constraint delaying the construction of water facilities in the LGA is late release of counterpart fund by the state and local government areas.

“It is counterpart funding that has delayed the programme not replicated in other local government, if we had the money to complete the programme in these two LGAs we would have made proposal to scale up in other LGAs.

He noted that, government was slow in releasing the funds, adding that, “They have come up to release the counterpart funding that is why before the end of this year, we are going to construct some of the facilities, if government had released earlier than now, we would have gone beyond this,” he said