From Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
As five local government areas in Benue state attain the Open Defection Free ODF status, the United Nations Children Education Fund (UNICEF) has called on the state to continue to work towards sustaining the feat.
The benefiting local governments including Konshisha, Oju, Obi, Tarka and Buruku were celebrated after a
declaration of ODF status by the Federal Ministry of Water Resources under the Sanitation Hygiene and Water in Nigeria (SHAWN) Programme implemented by the Benue State Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency with funding from UNICEF and DFID.
Speaking at the event which held in Makurdi on Tuesday, UNICEF’s Chief of Enugu Field Office, Dr. Ibrahim Country acknowledged the remarkable partnership of the State government and the untiring efforts of traditional rulers which resulted in the attainment of ODF status in the affected LGAs.
On her part, Water, Sanitation and Hygene (WASH) Manager, Enugu Field Office, Mamita
Thakkar stressed the need for all to change their perception of sanitation from being a stand-alone issue to one that impinges on several areas of human growth and development.
“We need to accelerate our efforts to create a state with no Open Defecation. We need to recognize that investments in water, sanitation and hygiene pay dividends in public health, nutrition, education, employment, gender equality, and the environment.”
While noting that the cost of inaction is too high to neglect, Thakkar posited that, “this is especially true for children,” adding that Benue State is uniquely positioned to make a substantial impact in the lives, health and economy of its future generations through investments in water, sanitation and hygiene.
“Clean water and sanitation is not only about hygiene and disease, they’re about dignity, too,” Thakkar stated.
In his keynote address after presenting the certificates to the affected Local Governments,
Governor Samuel Ortom promised to support the WASH Programme to enable people of the State benefit maximally from the Programme.
The Governor who was represented by the Permanent Secretary,
Ministry of Water Resources Mr. Godwin Tighir, maintained that the programme has also helped to curtail outbreak of diseases in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps and thanked UNICEF and other partners for collaborating the State government in WASH.
“The programmes has done much in the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps and we are believing that by 2025 all the Local Government Areas in the state will be ODF,” the Governor said.
On his part, Minister of Water Resources, Engr. Suleiman Adamu who was represented by Deputy Director, Sanitation, Engr. Emmanuel Eze
commended the state Government for the feat achieved and encouraged it to
sustain the results achieved.
The Minister disclosed that as at July 2021, 62 local governments areas of the country have so far attained ODF status while additional LGAs are undergoing the process of validation to be declared as ODF soon.
He explained further that the Federal Ministry of Water Resources has over the years ensured improvement in access to water supply across the country with national access estimated at 70% in 2019 up from 40% in 1990.
The Minister revealed that the roll out of the Partnership for Expanded Water Sanitation and Hygiene (PEWASH) Programme, Presidential launch of the National Action Plan on the Revitalization of the WASH sector, declaration of a State of Emergency in the Sector, implementation of 6he Clean Nigeria: Use the Toilet Campaign and Executive Order 009 are some of the sector initiatives to address this situation.
On her part, wife of the Governor and State WASH Ambassador, Dr. Eunice Ortom who was represented by Commissioner for Trade and Investment, Mrs. Ladi Ishiegbe, called on council chairmen and Traditional Rulers to ensure that the ODF status was sustained stressing that it was cheaper to prevent any outbreak of diseases than to cure it.
General Manager, Benue State Rural Water Supply and
Sanitation Agency (BERWASSA) Mrs. Torkwase Ikyaator disclosed that the State through BERWASSA has developed and launched the roadmap to end Open defecation in Benue come 2025.
She said that the State is in the last phase of review of the Benue WASH Policy to be launched soon adding that the five LGAs (Konshisha, Oju, Obi, Tarka and Buruku) under the UNICEF-SHAWN Project being celebrated at the occasion is a manifestation of the State efforts towards meeting the SDGs 6.1 and 6.2 in line the National Action Plan to end Open defecation in Nigeria by 2025.
“The milestone recorded today would not have been possible without the support of our major Development Partners; UNICEF and other sister donor agencies like United Purpose Nigeria, WaterAid and some domestic CSOs/NGOs across the State.
Speaking on behalf of traditional rulers, Ter Buruku, Chief Moses Haanior expressed gratitude with the feat attained and promised sustained synergy of traditional rulers.
Reacting after receiving the certificates on behalf of their Local
Governments, Chairman of Tarka Local Government, Mrs. Juliana
Suswam and her Obi counterpart Mrs. Agnes Erebe expressed
happiness for being among the few in the country to attain the feat and thanked Governor Ortom and his wife for their support.