Alex Enumah in Abuja
Nigeria’s target of eliminating open defecation by the year 2025 witnessed a boost in Calabar, with the declaration of Obanliku Local Government Area in Cross River State, Open Defecation Free (ODF) by the federal government.
The feat, which according to the Minister of Water Resources, Engr. Suleiman Adamu, was a landmark achievement, was due to concerted efforts by the people of the community in collaboration with the Rural Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion in Nigeria (RUSHPIN).
Adamu, announcing the ODF status of the LG at a press conference in Calabar, expressed confidence the event would go a long way in motivating other LGAs to achieve a similar result.
The minister, who was represented by the Director, Water Quality, Emmanuel Awe, disclosed that open defecation has been a source of great concern to the government, adding that FG in collaboration with relevant agencies set a target of 2025 for the elimination of open defecation in Nigeria.
Open Defecation is said to be responsible for thousands of deaths annually, particularly of children under the age of five.
Nigeria, according to the minister, is one of the leading countries in the world with 46 million defecating in the open. He said out of this figure, 71 per cent lack access to basic sanitation facilities.
“It is in this regard that sanitation focused projects such as the RUSHPIN project, etc are critical in filling the gap”, the minister stated, adding that, “The Federal Ministry of Water Resources is vigorously pursuing the agenda of eliminating open defecation and improving access to improved sanitation facilities in the country.”
He commended the people of Obanliku LGA and United Purpose (Implementing Agency) of RUSHPIN for doing the nation proud.
“This milestone, the first of its kind in Nigeria, has been achieved using the Community Led Total Sanitation (CTLS) approach, which promotes behavioral change by empowering communities to assess their sanitation practices and proffer solutions towards addressing them, especially as it regards open defecation, by constructing and using toilets through their resources without any hardware subsidy,” he said.
United Purpose’s Country Director, Tim Connell, said although water is important, there is need to emphasize sanitation towards meeting the SDG goals by 2030.
While noting that the issue of sanitation is more of behavioural change that needs conscious efforts from the people, he disclosed that a lot of the people have already bought into the idea, adding that Bekwarra LGA also in the state is at the verge of attaining ODF status.