Company partners Lagos State Government to eradicate open defecation
In a bid to promote healthy toilet practices and stomp out open defecation within the state, Reckitt Benckiser together with the Lagos State government organized a one-day event to educate citizens on the dangers of passing waste indiscriminately and what to do to prevent an outbreak of contagious and air borne or water borne diseases.
At an elaborate event held at CMS Primary School, Bariga, the participants made up of school children drawn from every primary school within Somolu and Bariga as well as representatives from every ward within both axis, they were educated through drama, dance, speeches and songs. At the end of the program, pictorial leaflets were handed out to each participant, depicting safe and appropriate toilet practices, hand washing and what to do in cases of neighbours that practice open defecation around them.
The Lagos State government was represented by the Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Local Governments and Community Affairs as well as the Ministry of Economic Planning and Budget. Mr. Bankole from the Ministry of Economic Planning and Budget who represented the Commissioner, lamented the growing cases of open defecation in the state especially in rural and developing areas and warned that if drastic measures are not put in place, this unhealthy practice might lead to a severe outbreak of contagious and deadly diseases such as cholera, dysentery and diarrhea.
The representative from the health ministry acknowledged that they have a lot to do in ensuring that public toilets are made available across the state especially in schools, homes and public places.
According to the Child Health Officer for the Stop Diarrhea Initiative (SDI) Save The Children Initiative, Somolu Local Government, Dr Demi Oyetayo, the initiative is a representation of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Seven-Point agenda for comprehensive diarrhea control. “In partnership with the Lagos State Government and Reckitt Benckiser, STI has decided to deliver this intervention in a coordinated, concerted manner. We have formulated two treatment packages and five prevention packages. The former consists of ORS and Zinc treatment for diarrhea while the latter consists of vaccination, water sanitation and hygiene and hand washing.”
According to Oyetayo, they aim to take the campaign all over the state and reach over thirty million people before the end of 2018. She pointed out that infants and children fall easy prey to these diseases when they arise and they intend to focus on both groups.
Speaking with The Guardian, the Water Sanitation and Hygiene Officer, STI Lagos State, Adebanke Morounkeji, she stressed the importance of water sanitation for good health. “When you have safe water, when you live in a safe environment, when you practice good hygiene, you will be healthy and then you can work. Take schools for example, if the pupils are healthy, there will be less absenteeism and concentration would improve greatly.”
Morounkeji says this is the second year of intervention in Somolu/Bariga and they have rehabilitated toilets in eight schools as well as several health centres to promote good toilet practices and provided water in said schools so the toilets stay clean through out the day. She says they intend to build toilets in markets and public places by early next year to curb the practice of open defecation in the state. She further said they have built and rehabilitated water points in several parts of the state to ensure the safety of water within the state. “Children are change agents and that is why we are using them. They remember things easily and in their own way, enforce these things in their homes and communities. We are working with the state water cooperation to enable more people get clean water because research shows that even though some people have toilets, water doesn’t run in them thereby defeating its purpose. We are calling on the government to scale up and leverage on what we are doing. I am pleading with the Lagos State Water Corporation to do their work properly in ensuring that clean, safe water is made available to as many homes as possible. We don’t want people to cross the roads to look for water or walk far distances to look for clean water.
In situations like these, good hygiene practices are usually the first to be thrown out the window; they become non-existent leading to outbreak of diseases. We want to eradicate open defecation as much as possible before the end of next year and we want everyone to partner with us to make this possible.”
The Behaviour Change Communication Adviser, STI, Amaka Ifeonu said they plan to saturate the whole of Somolu and Bariga before 2018. She added that participants were drawn and selected from every community within the two local governments and taught on hygiene improvements and were mandated to call community members to action to identify challenges in their communities and find solutions to said challenges. According to her, this has helped in triggering communities to take the issue of open defecation very seriously as offenders are shamed. “Now, everyone is working towards making their communities open defecation free as it has become a personal mandate for each and every person.”
Ifeonu says they hope to execute the WHO’s seven point agenda simultaneously with the aim to reducing the spread of communicable diseases especially amongst children before the end of 2018 as the project which is presently in its second year would be finished by 2018.