By Emma Una
CALABAR- YAKURR Local Government Area with a population of 1.5 million people has attained the Open Defecation Free, ODF, status making it the third local government in the country after Daz in Bauchi state and Obanlikwu also in Cross River State.
Ntufam Gab Orji, the state commissioner for Water Resources who made this known on Thursday said the state is among states in the country implementing the United Nations Children’s Education Fund , UNICEF, supported sanitation implementation programme which started in 2013 leading to the success in ODF by Yakkur and Obanlikwu.
He said Yakuur and another local government area, Boki, were selected as pilot councils in 2013 for the programme and through judicious commitment Yakurr has attained the Open Defecation Free ODF, which is a significant milestone in improving the sanitation of the area.
“Prior to the intervention of UNICEF, access to good sanitation by residents of rural areas in the state stood at 15% while that of urban centres was at 25% this implies that more than 80% of people in the state defecated in the open turning surrounding bushes, drainages, rivers and road sides to defecation points which constituted health risks to them”.
The Director General of Rural Water Sanitation Agency, RUWATSA, Dr Ita -Weir Ikpeme said residents of the state have been made to adopt the Community Led Total Sanitation programme which has made them to construct toilets and Yakurr people have constructed a total of 2,500 latrines with 1.5 million being provided access to clean and safe defecation points.
He said strenuous efforts were made through arrests and enlightenment campaigns to break the resistance of the people to imbibe the habit of building and using toilets for defecation with many staff of the agency assaulted before the success was eventually achieved
‘When we tried to stop the open defecation by telling the people that their excreta is swept by rain into the drinking sources from where they fetched to drink ; they did not like the idea of using the toilets which they said confines them and reduces the pleasure they have during defecation but we persisted”. Ikpeme said
Dr Ibrahim Musa , the Permanent Secretary Federal Ministry of Water Resources said Nigeria is one of the countries in the world with the highest number of people defecating in the open which is a health risk to the people.
“It is estimated that 46 million inhabitants and 71% of the population of Nigeria are reported to be without access to improved sanitation facilities and this poses a big challenge to women, girls, children and those in vulnerable conditions”
He stated that absence of proper sanitation facilities pose big threat to the economy and health of the people which is the reason concerted efforts are being made to make communities imbibe the habit of Community Led Total Sanitation which is a practice most countries of the world are adopting to met their sanitation needs.
“The Ministry is proposing to set up a national fund to take off by middle of this year which interested states can access to improve their sanitation institutions and infrastructure”