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TCCF, RAWDP unveil resilient watershed project

By Chinedum Uwaegbulam
29 May 2023   |   3:01 am
A new project that would ensure community resilience, improved health through increased access to clean water and sanitation services has been kick-started in the Imo state capital, Owerri.

Imo State Commissioner of Commerce, Chijioke Onumajuru (left); Chief Executive Officer, Rural Africa Water Development Project, Mrs. Ogechi Ezeji; Director, Public Affairs, Communication and Sustainability, Coca-Cola Cola Nigeria, Mrs. Nwamaka Onyemelukwe; Imo State Commissioner, Ministry of Water Resources, Mrs. Ann Dozie and HRH Sir Ethelbert Ekwelibe, Agu Ubiam 1 of Irete Autonomous Community, Imo State during the event at Rockview Hotel, Owerri, recently.

A new project that would ensure community resilience, improved health through increased access to clean water and sanitation services has been kick-started in the Imo state capital, Owerri.

Known as Resilient Watershed for All (RWFA), the project would foster improved behaviours in sanitation and hygiene for positive health impacts; champion participatory, sustainable water and watershed resources management to benefit people, as well as ecosystems.

Rural Africa Water Development Project (RAWDP) and Initiative for Disaster Risk Reduction and Urban Resilience (IDRRUR) are implementing the project, while The Coca-Cola Foundation (TCCF) is funding it.

Speaking at the flag-off ceremony of RWFA in Imo State, Director, Public Affairs, Communications and Sustainability, Coca-Cola Nigeria, Mrs. Nwamaka Onyemelukwe, said the initiative will promote efficient and sustainable productive use of water to protect the environment, as well as address water stress, protect local water resources and help build community climate resilience.

“We firmly believe that businesses have a responsibility to contribute positively to the communities and environment in which they work and live. Sustainability lies at the very core of our mission, and this project represents yet another step forward in our journey towards building a more resilient and thriving world,” she said.

Onyemelukwe said the project is a testament to their commitment to safeguarding water resources and ensuring their accessibility for future generations. “Rural populations often depend on local water sources, which in many cases get easily contaminated. Proper sanitation lowers the risk of diseases and ensures dignity, privacy and safety for all, especially vulnerable women and children.

“Our focus lies in implementing community-based interventions that safeguard watershed sources like the Otamiri watershed and other neighbouring communities, who will benefit from access to clean water and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) related activities. By doing so, we seek to improve sanitation and hygiene levels in Owerri North, Owerri West and Owerri municipal local councils.

“We aspire to reach a total of 2.5 million individuals residing in these communities. We firmly believe in active community engagement and empowering them with knowledge and resources to become custodians of their local watersheds,” she added

The Chief Executive Officer, RAWDP, Mrs. Ogechi Ezeji, said the project is largely a community-based intervention that will focus on watershed governance, sanitising and protecting watershed sources through the conservation of forest and woodland ecosystems.

Ezeji explained that the project will in the next 24 months help Imo state communities, especially Health Care Facilities (HCF), schools, motor parks and markets in over 25 locations in the state to secure safely managed water and sanitation services, as well as retard the prevalence of water-borne illnesses.

While expressing concern on the degrading water quality of the Otamiri River, she said agriculture, deforested land, and residential buildings account for more than two-thirds of the land use in the entire watershed.

“The failure of key stakeholders to take advantage of the healthy watersheds and freshwater ecosystems, the city of Owerri and many similar cities in Nigeria have shrunk their ability to guarantee safe drinking water supplies and mitigate flood damages,” she said.

She noted that without adequate WASH facilities, children are at high risk of the range of possible WASH- related infectious and debilitating illnesses that adversely affect their enrolment, attendance and performance levels within schools, as well as their general nutrition, growth, development and wellbeing.

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