Awka — by Emmanuel Okogba
THE United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, has said that 672,000 people in Anambra State still defecate in the open, while about 70% of the population do not have access to water and hand washing facility in their homes.
The worrisome figure was given by the global body while declaring a state of emergency on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in the state as part of the ongoing efforts to achieve total access to water by 2030.
The manager in charge of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, WASH, at the UNICEF Enugu area office, Ms Mamita Bora Thakka, who spoke during the flag off of the campaign against open defecation and inauguration of inter- ministerial committee on WASH in Awka, urged the state government to show commitment in the provision of basic social amenities to the people so as not to leave the state behind.
According to her, by declaring a state of emergency on WASH, the state government had made history and urged government to put in more effort.
She said: “Though the Water Supply and Sanitation Sector Reform Programme, WSSRRP, project has ended, UNICEF has continued to support the state. Starting with this event of the launch of emergency, we are supporting all interventions to make Anambra East the first Open Defecation Free, ODF, local government in the state, by February, 2021. This will help establish a salable model for the state and soon, we believe, Aguata and other LGAs will follow suit.
“But a lot needs to be still done because even after one year of the launch of Clean Nigeria Campaign, Anambra State does not have a single local government that is ODF, while only 6.2% of schools in the state has proper hand washing facilities with soap and water.
“We, therefore, need to accelerate our efforts to create a state which can put a stop to open defecation. There should be investments in water, sanitation and hygiene as these pay dividends in public health, nutrition, education, employment, gender equality and the environment, making the cost of inaction too great to neglect.
“The state is uniquely positioned to make a substantial impact in the lives, health and economy of its future generations through these investments.
“We need a multi pronged and a multi level approach for universal access to sanitation. Investment in five key accelerators can be a pathway towards states’ achievement of safe sanitation for all.
“These key areas are good governance, beginning with strong political leadership, smart public finance to lay the foundation for safe sanitation services, institutional capacities across the sanitation sector, including training, human resources development, reliable data for better decision-making and stronger accountability, as well as innovation to unlock better approaches and meet emerging challenges like urbanization and climate change.
“We also need to change our perception of sanitation from being a stand-alone issue to one that impinges on several areas of our growth and development.”
Inaugurating the committee, Governor Willie Obiano said the launch, coming against the backdrop of the reported resurgence of Covid -19, would strengthen the state’s collaborative efforts with UNICEF to make Anambra an open defecation free state and address other crucial issues in the public health sector of the state.
The governor said: “We are fully aware, that water, sanitation and hygiene constitute a major foundation upon which public health stands. We know that when there is no access to water, the pride and dignity of a people suffer a major blow.
“It is on account of this understanding that my administration has prioritized the provision of portable water over the years. That was why, even with the threat of Covid-19, my administration worked very hard to ensure the commissioning of Obizi and Otuocha water schemes.
“The two water schemes have a capacity to supply water to 21 communities in both Aguata and Anambra East Local Government Areas. I have also approved a Public Private Partnership management structure for the Greater Onitsha water scheme with PCI of South Africa to ensure that the challenge of providing portable water to the residents of Onitsha is tackled head-on..
“I have no doubts that our partnership with UNICEF will give our people a fighting chance against ailments caused by lack of portable water, open defecation and other poor hygiene practices. Our efforts in this regard are perfectly aligned to the Clean Nigeria Campaign by the federal government, which aims to end Open Defecation in Nigeria by 2025.
“We count on our partnership with UNICEF and look forward to receiving their continued technical support to enable us achieve our vision of attaining Open Defecation Free local governments across the state, in addition to boosting our capacity to deliver water, sanitation and hygiene to all residents of our dear state.”
Vanguard News Nigeria