By Suzan Edeh
Initially, for Isa Dauda, a resident of Makama community in Dass Local Government Area of Bauchi State, it was a sad tale of frequent visits to the hospital and paying huge medical bills.
He was a regular patient at Durr Primary Healthcare Centre, 5 km from his house.
Caring for his family of 12 including two wives was a big responsibility, especially paying their medical expenses particularly as they were falling sick often.
Isa’s challenge is typical of the predicament of many more residents in the community.
There are common accounts of children coming down with diarrhoea, cholera, typhoid fever, malaria among others mainly as a result of unhygienic environment caused by open defecation.
According to Dauda, another resident of the community, there was a time in the community, human faeces littered the whole place.
“People were defecating in the streams where we fetch water for our domestic chores. There were faeces in public places and the offensive smell was terrible.”
Dauda recalled that every month, at least three or four children in each household were being admitted in hospital for cholera and typhoid.
“We would just discover that a child was having headache, fever, vomiting and stooling frequently while dehydrating very fast. It was a terrible experience,” noted Saratu Jamilo, a housewife and a mother of six..
But all these happened in the recent past. Good Health Weekly gathered during a recent visit to the community that the story had changed for good. The disease burden caused by open defecation had dropped significantly since the problem received attention of Bauchi state government, by keying into a special initiative known as Sanitation, Hygiene and Water, SHAWN, project.
The project which began in 2010 was facilitated through the Bauchi State Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency, RUWASSA, and the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Units in eight LGAs of Dass, Warji, Gamawa, Shira, Toro, Ganjuwa, Bogoro and Zaki.
The project is jointly funded by the United Kingdom Department For International Development, DFID, UNICEF, the state government and local councils and aims at eradicating open defecation adopting the culture of hand washing, particularly after using the toilet.
Findings show that Dass LGA, with 352 communities, is currently at the forefront of the other LGAs benefiting from the SHAWN project. All communities in Dass were certified open defecation free by the State Task Group on Sanitation between 2012 and 2016 and validated by the National Task Group on Sanitation in 2017.
Good Health Weekly can confirm that Dass LGA is the first LGA to be declared open defecation free in Nigeria. Warji LGA is next in line while Gamawa LGA is at 85 percent. Bogoro, Ganjuwa, Shira and Toro LGAs have also achieved various stages of success.
Prior to this development, it was gathered that 3,965 unimproved toilet facilities catered for 308,377 people in the LGA, hence open defecation was the major practice, moreso as defecating in a latrine was considered taboo. Worse still, defecating in the open created conflicts in the communities. It was mistaken for witchcraft and was responsible for killing of members of households.
Investigations revealed that in the past, people of the LGA were not motivated to improve their personal hygiene and environmental conditions, especially as they had to trek far and wide in search of water.
The effect of the intervention practically transformed life in the community. Some residents of the LGA and members of the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Committee at Durr community led an inspection of households with the improved latrines, smart toilets and locally constructed “tippy taps” to maintain sustainable open defecation free status.
At the residence of Suleiman Ladan, the Chairman of the WASHCOM Committee, a newly constructed pit laterine situated at the back of his house readily caught attention.
The latrine meets specifications of the SHAWN project . The slab constructed with cement is unlike the local pit latrine made with wood or mud. The floor of the latrine is constructed such that the user comfortably squats.
Inside the latrine is a locally constructed “tap” made with two sticks dug deep into the ground, one to the right, the other to the left.
The sticks serve as support for a rope that holds a water container and soap for handwashing purposes.
The water container has two small holes – one to allow the water flow out, the other to allow air into the container.
According to observers, the idea behind the new concept is to enable quick and convenient access to soap and water for handwashing purposes after using the toilet.
There are functional boreholes situated strategically in the communities. The boreholes were constructed via the SHAWN project to provide safe drinking water and promote a hygienic environment. Women and children were seen fetching water with excitement.
According to Ladan, since the implementation of the project, the problem of open defecation became a thing of the past as everybody in the two communities made use of the improved pit level of hygiene.
“It is difficult to find anyone defecating in the public again because it is now an offence that is not taken lightly and we will continue to maintain the culture,” he said.
Ladan said the community constructed the improved latrines through a contribution method known as Adashe, in which each household contributes N250 monthly while members of the WASHCOM committee contribute N50 weekly.
This laudable initiative drew attention of the Federal Government and led to official declaration of Dass LGA as open defecation free. The event on the 5th of March 2018, drew delegations from far and near.
The Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Hussein Adamu who was represented by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Musa Ibrahim Madaki, said Nigeria was reported to have the highest number of people practicing open defecation, estimated at over 46 million, but that the ministry is responding adequately to the challenge.
On his part, the Permanent Secretary, Bauchi State RUWASSA, Garba Magaji Babaji, said the SHAWN project built the capacity of stakeholders at the state and local government levels and adopted the LGA approach in the Commy Lead Total Sanitation Implementation, CLTS.
He said as a result of the CLTS, communities at the LGA committed to construct and use latrines, not only at household level, but in markets, motor parks and places of worships while the project in collaboration with the state government provided such facilities in schools and health centres in which ODF communities began to emerge.
The total number of latrines at baseline is 3,965 while total improved household latrines is 7,152. Also, the total(smart) improved household toilets constructed in communities (January-December 2017) was 2,815 while the total improved toilets constructed by households through Adashe(January-December 2017) was 315.