Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
United Nations Intentional Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), has certified Ogbadibo Local Government Area (LGA) of Benue State as Open Defecation Free (ODF).
The feat, which places Ogbadibo as the 10th LGA to be certified ODF in Nigeria and the 3rd in Benue State is made possible through the joint intervention of UNICEF, Directorate of Food and International Development (DFID), the Nigerian Government and Benue State Government.
In her speech, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Manager Enugu UNICEF, Mamita Bora Thakkar, said her office is happy and pleased that the journey, which started few years ago has culminated into the celebration of ODF in Ogbadibo.
She described the event the presentation of certificate of ODF to the LGA as a historic moment for the people of Benue State for adding another LGA to the list of LGAs that are ODF.
According to her, the aim of ensuring ODF is to improve the lives of the future generations because poor sanitation and hygiene can affect the quality of education and economic opportunities.
Mamita added that there was the need to fight against open defecation and save the children, who are most susceptible to effect of poor hygiene, with its attendant negative effect on communities.
While calling for improved awareness on the dangers of open defecation and the need to mobilise communities that they need dignity and privacy for their women, the UNICEF WASH Manager said no child should be born in the state to know that open defecation is right.
Earlier in his keynote address, Minister for Environment Engr. Suleiman Adamu, acknowledged the support of UNICEF in the implementation of SHWAN in Nigeria.
The minister, who was represented by Engr. Emmanuel Eze, Deputy Director, Sanitation in the ministry said SHWAN is implemented across eight states in 104 LGAs in the country. He said the celebration of ODF in Ogbadibo LGA indicates that progress is being made.
According to the minister the supply of good water cannot be optimal without sanitation and hygiene, saying, government recognises the challenge and is strongly committed to addressing the situation.
He explained that as part of the commitment of the present government to achieving WASH, President Muhammadu Buhari, last year last declared a state of emergency with a strong statement to end open defecation in the country and that the campaign is aimed at mobilising high level political support and resources.
The minister therefore, commended the Benue State Govt for being among the first states to declare state of emergency on the WASH sector and expressed the hope the hope that the State Government will commit the needed support towards achieving Open Defecation Free in 2025.
He also called on LGAs in Benue State to provide facilities in public places such As schools and markets, insisting that action to end open defecation in Nigeria requires the commitment of everyone including government at all levels, private sector and everyone towards achieving open defecation free in Nigeria by 2025.
In his remark, the Ad’Ogbadibo Chief Ode Emmanuel, described the certification as a day never to forget in the lives because it is a day they hae been longing to see: Open Defecation Free day.
The Ad’Ogbadibo, who was represented by Prince Agbo Enenche, while commending UNICEF for ensuring the success of the exercise expressed the hope that UNICEF will help them in more areas including health and other infrastructure.
Torkwase Ikyaator, the General Manager Benue Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Authority (BERWASSA), said the attainment of ODF status by Ogbadibo LGA is a culmination of an enormous collective effort which began in 2012 when Ogbadibo was selected among 2 other local governments in the state for intervention in the Sanitation, Hygiene and Water in Nigeria (SHAWN) programmebeing implemented by UNICEF in collaboration with Benue State Government.
The General Manager, who was represented byTony Nkpen, said her authority was inspired by the “landmark achievement which has seen Benue State make progress on improving sanitation coverage in our LGAs. So far, 3 out of 23 LGAs have been declared ODF, an important factor in reducing disease outbreaks such as diarrhea in communities. Although it is a far cry from the target of making Benue open defecation-freeby 2025, with hard work, political will and commitment, it is achievable.
“Open defecation do not only create a breeding ground for infectious and parasitic diseases but also raises morbidity and mortality rates. Over 90 percent of the chronic diseases affecting Benue’s communities, particularly those in rural areas, are due to open defecation, poor sanitation and hygiene conditions.
“We will continue to motivate and empower community leaders to sustain the gains made in sanitation and focus them on a path of continued improvement. The ODF status achieved in the state has to be the sustained by ensuring use of toilets by the whole population at all times, and the challenges of achieving total sanitation including practices such as hand washing with soap will further be encouraged.”