By CHARLES KUMOLU
MRS.Hawa Haruna, a petty business woman and mother of five had lost two of her children to diarrhoea and cholera diseases. She did not know the cause of their death at the time, hence she attributed it to foul play by members of her husband’s family.
She recalled sadly that her first child died at the age of eight months while the second died when he was 18 months. “When I lost my children one after the other, my husband’s people thought I was a witch, they called me all sorts of names. Even my parents doubted my innocence but I kept on praying to God to give me another child that will survive,” she said.
Haruna, who is now seven months pregnant, believes that with the personal hygiene being practised by the community, her child will live a healthy life.
“We now have latrine in all our houses and after defecation, we wash our hands with soap or ash,” she said, adding that she was always falling sick when pregnant due to the unhygienic practices of members of the community.
Hashana is a community in Warji Local Government Area of Bauchi State, whose new health and personal hygiene status could only be attributed to the Open Defecation Free, ODF, practice. Just like Ms Haruna had come to realise, Mr Ayabu Musa, community leader of Hashana, said that the people did not suffer from diseases like diarrhoea, cholera, typhoid and parasitic worms anymore.Musa added that UNICEF had created awareness on the importance of toilet and that every household has built a latrine to end open defecation.
“We are enjoying it now, but at first it was not easy; you can even eat at these farms around us; before the toilets were built, you will see shit (faeces) everywhere you go.
“Diarrhoea and cholera were common in the community before the introduction of ODF,” he said.
He said with the ODF, house flies were no longer seen around and as a direct result, food items were not being contaminated as before.
Of a truth, many members of the community attest to the fact that they have been liberated from the burden occasioned by the usual practice of community members defecating with reckless abandon.
Towards the sustenance of the current gains, Water Sanitation and Hygiene Committees, WASHCOM, were set up, which comprised members of the communities as direct beneficiaries of the projects.
Without casting aspersions or trading blames, they lauded UNICEF for its initiative in sensitising them to the importance of having toilets and discouraging open defecation.
Water sanitation and hygiene
Mr Alhassan Gololo, the coordinator of Water Sanitation and Hygiene, WASH, in Gamawa Local Government Area said 148 communities had been certified to have attained Open Defecation Free, ODF, Status, while 97 other communities had attained the ODF status but were yet to be certified by the State Task Force Group on Sanitation.
Gololo said that before 2010, 39 per cent of the community had toilets, adding that within three years of DFID/UNICEF Sanitation Hygiene and Water in Nigeria, SHAWN, project, it had recorded additional 32 per cent. He said SHAWN also built toilets in 17 schools in the area.
Lending more credence to this, Mr Elisha Shagori, Secretary WASHCOM, Musunga community, Warji LGA, said the committee used to share themselves to ensure that no child or adult defecates outside the latrines.
Shagori said that as a way of enforcing the law and bringing the initiative to fruition, a fine of N1,000 was imposed, while the second Saturday of every month was set aside for discussions on keeping the environment clean.
“We even build a public latrine for visitors as they will not enter into the compound due to our culture. In the past, we did not bother about sanitation, but now, every household uses soap to wash hands after defecation.
“Also, immediately one finishes defecation, he or she covers the toilet; you will not see flies roaming about in the village again. So many sicknesses that we were encountering have gone; you can’t get it again, especially things like cholera and diarrhoea.”
He said the committee ensured that the environment was kept clean with good hygiene practice.
Mr Garba Magaji, General Manager, Bauchi Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency, RUWASSA, said for Community-led Total Sanitation, CLTS, approach, 569 communities had been certified to have attained ODF status.
He said that 387 communities had also attained the ODF status and were awaiting certification from the State Task Force Group on Sanitation.
The CLTS is in a process of engaging community members, ranging from individuals to schools and traditional leaders.
Available statistics indicate that Nigeria, with a population of over 160 million people, has one of the poorest levels of access to improved sanitation in the world.
It is estimated that over 100 million Nigerians lack access to improved sanitation and about 37 million of them practice open defecation.
Although on average about a third of the population have access to improved sanitation; there are wide regional disparities in access across the 36 states in the country, ranging from 8.2 per cent in Bauchi State to 59.6 per cent in Kano State.
Achieving total sanitation
This is why the introduction of the CLTS approach, which is aimed at stopping open defecation and achieving total sanitation in communities, is gradually revolutionising the Nigerian WASH sector.
The prospects for positive change in sanitation development, and for moving the country out of the League of Nations with the lowest sanitation coverage, are now high.
In the short time, since its introduction, CLTS is proving effective and shows great potential for helping Nigeria to achieve its MDG sanitation targets if the approach can be successfully scaled up across all states in the country.
CLTS is an innovative methodology for mobilising communities to completely eliminate open defecation, OD.
CLTS is one of the Community Approaches to Total Sanitation, CATS, being promoted by UNICEF in over 50 countries and has been adopted in Nigeria for scaling up access to sanitation.
The CLTS approach was piloted from 2004 to 2007 in several parts of the country and its outcomes clearly showing the appropriateness and potential for scaling up sanitation delivery.