From Joe Effiong, Uyo
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has advocated the setting aside of one percent of the national budget for the the provision of safe water supply and sanitation for rural populace.
The UN agency equally challenged governments in the Niger Delta region to invest in water and sanitation projects in order to check the incidence of outbreak of diarrhoea and other diseases associated with contaminated water.
Providing such basic but essential social amenity, according to UNICEF, would encourage hand washing and other hygienic practices among school-age children and rural populace.
At a two-day Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) meeting organised by the Federal Ministry of Information in collaboration with UNICEF in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, between Tuesday and Wednesday, observed that the chemical contamination resulting from oil and gas exploration in the Niger Delta region has made it necessary for efforts to be made to ensure safe and constantly check on water for human consumption.
Speaking on Water, Supply and Quality in the Niger Delta, a WASH specialist, Mr Moustapha Niang called for proper orientation of the rural populace to change and embrace safe water plan, from water source, storage to point of use.
Niang tasked government at all levels to ensure provision of public toilet in public facilities as a means to discourage open defecation and the consequences associated with it, even as he suggested the need for constant monitoring of water quality to detect and check contamination.
Another WASH specialist, Mrs Martha Hokonya who spoke on ‘’Why invest in water supply”, said such investment, in addition to job creation, reduces diseases and mortality rate, improves productivity and also provides time for women to engage in other activities like child care and others which brings women together.
Hokonya said as an area prone to youth restiveness, the essence of bringing the WASH programme to the Niger Delta region was to address one of the agitations of the region, reduce conflicts and agitation and promote good hygiene.
While reporting that about 206,954 people have been reached with the WASH programme as against the targeted 543,000, she used the occasion to applaud some Niger Delta states which have lived up to their counterpart funding arrangement, but however appealed to states yet to do so to step up to enable UNICEF do more.
The Permanent Secretary, Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Political, Legislative Affairs and Water Resources, Mr. Nse Edem, who declared the meeting open, pledged the state preparedness to partner with UNICEF in the provision of safe water for the people of the state.