Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
The federal government has lamented that in spite of concerted efforts to track mechanism for sanitation and hygiene in the country, Nigeria still tops the global league of countries in which open defecation is prevalent with an estimated 47 million of the people indulging in the practice.
Chief Scientific Officer (Desk Officer Hygiene) Federal Ministry of Water Resources, Mrs Ayaba Kogbara stated this at the review meeting of the Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Media Network, Benue State Chapter in Makurdi, the state capital on Monday.
While noting that open defecation has a negative impact on the health, educational outcomes and socio-economic life of the populace, especially women and children, Kogbara regretted that the practice of open defecation is a norm in many communities due to lack of sanitation facilities.
“Many public places either lack sanitation facilities or have facilities which are not accessible or fit to use. National access to improved sanitation facilities stands at 41.5% of which 19.2% are safely managed according to the SDG standard (WASHNORM 2018 data).
“Similarly, access to basic sanitation facilities in schools is 33.5% while in health care facilities the access is 11.7%. These statistics are critical and needs more attention with a minimum of three times the current level of investment required to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals for water and sanitation.
She enjoined everyone from the President to landlords and prospective tenants to work collaboratively to ensure that open defecation is eliminated in Nigeria even as she urged the media to play its role of sensitizing the general public to the effects of open defecation.
This, Kogbara pointed out, will involve several components such as devoting time and space in all the various media channels to issues concerning open Defecation; producing and airing short clips on open defecation, staging seasonal reality shows in local communities; naming and shaming culprits and also establishing WASH Desks in media houses, and instituting an award scheme.
She advised the Media to refocus its lenses on capturing the poor and negative attitudes that have brought the country to its knees as far as sanitation is concerned.
“While it is possible for media to help in shaping the hearts and minds of the people for an improved sanitation, they can also erode steady gains made in the sector with unguarded and factually inaccurate reportage. In view of this, my caution to all media practitioners is to always check and even re-check facts from credible sources before running with stories.
Kogbara also appealed to the Legislature and Judiciary to ensure that sanitation law enforcement works just as she stayed that traditional rulers and religious leaders can influence their constituencies to change.
“Trade Unions can sensitize their members and seek their welfare by demanding clean and safe toilets at their workplaces; heads of institutions will ensure there is access to clean toilets for their staff; landlords will ensure there is a toilet for tenants; and prospective tenants will insist on availability of a toilet before renting a room/apartment.
She commended donor partners including United Purpose (UP), UNICEF, WaterAid, Action Against Hunger among other organizations for their immense contribution to the fight against open defecation and other WASH related issues in the country.
On his part, National Chairman of WASH Media Network, Mr. Wale Elekolusi commended stakeholders for finding time to honour the invitation and urged them to support the media to carry out more sensitization and projection of WASH programs in the state.
Earlier in his welcome address, State Chairman is Benue WASH Media Network, Mr. Babs Usigbe pledges the commitment of the Network to remain active.
The General Manager of Benue State Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency (BERWASSA), Mrs. Torkwase Ikyaator made a presentation on the activities of the Agency in the state.