BY PETER DURU, MAKURDI
Undoubtedly, that the interventions of the United Nations Children’s Funds, UNICEF, across Benue state has continued to lift and excite the various benefiting rural dwellers and the leadership of the such communities alike.
A visit to Agatu and Oju local government areas of the state clearly revealed that the benefitting locals had since the coming of the world body to their communities have been lifted from the burden of deprivation and ignorance that had hitherto been the order of the day in these communities.
The testimonies abound in the various communities and villages of Agatu where the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, WASH, programme of the world body had paid off with the construction of toilets across the 10 council wards of the local government area.
No doubt clean water, basic toilets and good hygiene practices are essential for the survival and development of a people particularly children and women who are always at the receiving end.
Hence in a well laid out plan to provide succour for the locals and inhabitants of Agatu which in recent time suffered the devastation of herdsmen incursion, the UNICEF intervention no doubt has given the people a new lease of life especially in the area of provision of portable water, toilets and sensitization of the people on the basic rules of healthy living.
Speaking on the intervention of the world body in the crisis ravaged communities of Agatu, the Supervisory Councilor for Finance and Appropriation of the local government council, Hon. John Ikwulono said “UNICEF had done a lot for us but like Oliver Twist we are still asking for more.
Ikwulono said, “you know that in times of crisis the worst hit are children and women who most times die from avoidable and preventable diseases mostly caused by poor water, and lack of sanitation and hygiene apart from lack of food.
“Our people went through that trauma when herdsmen invaded our communities at the peak of the crisis.
“From Okokolo, Odugbeho, Akwu, Ocholonya, Adagbo, Ugboku and Aila it was the same heartrending story but we thank UNICEF for their intervention which has saved a lot of lives.
“Today if you go round you will discover that we have many public and private toilets built across the local government council courtesy of UNICEF and its WASH programme.
“Our vulnerable children and women now have toilets for their use unlike before now when open defecation was the order to the day because most of our buildings were razed by the intruders and people had no choice but to defecate openly despite the attendant health consequences of such practice.”
Continuing, Hon. Ikwulono said “through the UNICEF WASH programme we now have toilets everywhere and most importantly people have been sensitized on the need to live healthy through constant washing of the hands and use of the toilets.
“In fact we have been sensitized to the point that it is now a punishable offense in Agatu for anyone to defecate in the open.
“Environmental cleanliness has also been inculcated in the people who despite the fact that their communities are still in ruins ensure that they maintain clean environment to ward off diseases that are attributed to dirty lifestyle.
“Before now our abattoir was an eyesore where people also go to defecate, all that have change with the intervention of UNICEF, with the provision of water and toilets facilities by the world body.
“I must emphatically say that we are grateful for what they have been able to do for the people so far but we are also in need of more intervention.
“Like you know, most of our houses were destroyed during the crisis and many of our people still have no homes and houses to lay their heads.
“Though the state government is doing its best but the situation we have on ground is actually beyond the state government but with the intervention of good spirited organizations like the UNICEF our people will come out of the trauma of the tragedy.”
The lawmaker also appealed to the world body to intervene in the provision of basic learning tools stressing that, “many of our children lack learning kits and materials, that is an area we also need help.
“Further intervention in medicare especially for women and children will also go a long way to boost learning and healthy living in Agatu.” He added.
On his part, the Oju local government council Chairman, Hon. Austin Okwoche recounted that his council area had also benefitted immensely from UNICEF in the area of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene.
Hon. Okwoche who noted that the local government area was expecting more assistance from UNICEF noted that his people had been exposed to basic hygiene practices courtesy of the international organization.
He said, “I can attest that the WASH programme of UNICEF is impacting our people but I am pleading and hoping that the scope of their intervention would be expanded the more in my council area despite the paucity of funds.
“Our people are now conscious of the benefits of basic hygiene practices and this was attained through advocacy and sensitization by the international organisation.
“We are also happy that we have benefit from the toilet facilities built through the WASH programme. If you go round you will see that this toilets are being put to use in the areas they are located.
“There is no doubt that the facilities have helped us check cases of open defecation across the local government area especially in parts of the council wards where they are situated.”
“We will still want more of the toilets given its immense benefits and the fact that water and sanitation related diseases are one of the leading causes of deaths around the world.
“So with more of the WASH facilities we would be able to overcome that challenge which is obviously rampant in most rural communities.”
The Council Chairman who lauded UNICEF for setting the pace in hygiene and sanitation in his council area enjoined the organization to help his administration tackle its challenges in the primary health sector.
Okwoche lamented that the primary healthcare services in the council area would require a robust assistance and intervention of international organizations and other public spirited organizations.
He said, “you know that the want of man is insatiable, that is why we are pleading for more UNICEF intervention in the area of primary healthcare delivery despite the paucity of funds.”
“An advocacy in that area would help us because at the moment there is pressure in Primary healthcare services in Oju local government area.
“On our part as a government we are actually doing our best to ensure that the services are running but there is much pressure in that sector.
“We appeal to the world organization to intervention and assist us with more drugs to enable us tackle the challenge we are facing in that sector.”
Okwoche also identified the education sector as another area that was in dire need of intervention in the council.
“Though we would not want to overburden UNICEF but i think an intervention of the organization in that area would no doubt help us actualize our laudable dreams for the people.”
Speaking recently on the activities of UNICEF IN Benue state , the Commissioner of Water Resources and Environment, Dr. Terlumun Utsev commended the international organization for always coming to the aid of the state whenever the need arose.
“UNICEF has been partnering Benue state and they have doing perfectly well as you can see. They have alway intervened in the area of water, drugs, sanitation and in other areas of need.
“The organization has been doing a lot for the people of Benue state and we are indeed grateful and pleased with their activities in our state.” Utsev said.