By Ushang Ewa
The Federal Ministry of Water Resources has declared Obanliku local government area of northern Cross River as the first open defecation-free (ODF) council in the country.
But, the Cross River State Primary Health Care Development Agency says a concerted effort by Concerned Universal Rural Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion in Nigeria (RUSHPIN) program and UNICEF led to Abi local government area been declared the first ODF council area earlier in the year.
However, Abi alongside Obanliku and Bekwarra in Cross River State including Agatu, Logo and Gwer East local government areas of Benue state were selected for the RUSHPIN program with the states required to pay a counterpart fund while Yala, Ikom and Biase are under the Community-led Hygiene Promotion in Nigeria (CHISPIN) program.
Water Resources Minister, Suleiman Adamu, made the declaration Thursday, in Calabar while inaugurating the council with the nomenclature he said the achievement will motivate other councils to achieve similar result.
Represented by the Director, water quality in the ministry, Emmanuel Awe, Adamu said an estimated 46 million Nigerians practice open defecation thus making the country among those with a high population practicing the act and pointed out that about 71 percent of this population lack access to basic sanitation facilities, a trend he said needs to be reversed as it poses a great challenge to the female population and impacts negatively on the health and economy of the populace.
Adamu who said the program was implemented by RUSHPIN and the Federal Government’s Partnership for Extended Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (PEWASH) program, aims at addressing Sustainable Development Goals 6, 1 and 2 with the government already adopting a national road map which will make Nigeria achieve open defecation-free status by 2025.
He called on all Nigerians to join and be committed to achieving the objective.
The Country Director of Concerned Universal, the implementing partner of RUSHPIN, Tim Connel in his address stressed the need to emphasize sanitation if the SDGs are to be met by 2030.
Connel who disclosed that Bekwarra local government area was also about to attain ODF status pointed out that 150,000 children die annually from disease relating to sanitation while 29.4 percent of households in Nigeria defecate in the open.
Immediate past Chairman of the Council, Jerry Ashua and Director General of the Cross River State Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency, Ita Ikpeme, in their remarks lauded the program with Ashua disclosing that a fine of NGN20,000 was placed on anyone caught in the act
Ikpeme said the feat showed that Cross River is known for achievements, and pointed out that people have been empowered to fight against preventable diseases and deaths.