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Death from open Defecation: How community led approach saved the day for Fulani community

By Femi Bolaji, Jalingo

THE Fulani Community of Yammawar Kafawa in Dambatta Local Government Area of Kano State has, over the years, been plagued by myriads of water-borne diseases like diarrhoea and cholera. It is a situation that has brought so much agony and pains to families affected and the community in general. The community, with a population of 1,649 people who are predominantly peasant farmers and cattle rearers, has in recent past been massively hit by fatalities through cholera and diarrhoea.

Kafawa  Defecation
Water project in Yammawar Kafawa spearheaded by UKaid, UNICEF and the Federal Government

But the story for them today is different. Thanks to a trend which they adopted and which neighbouring communities are already tapping into to salvage themselves from the scourge of water-borne diseases. Yammawar Kafawa is currently one of the three Open Defecation Free, ODF, communities in Kano State out of the 77 triggered communities in six local government areas through the Sanitation, Hygiene and Water in Nigeria, SHAWN. The project is supported by the United Kingdom Agency for International Development, UKaid, United Nations Children Fund, UNICEF and the Federal Government.

Before now

Open defecation is not only practised in Yammawar Kafawa community, but has been the norm in most rural communities across the country. This practice is not limited to rural dwellers as urban settlers also engage in the act. It brings the total to about 47 million Nigerians spread across the six geopolitical zones who currently practice open defecation.

Ibrahim Inusa, is a resident of Yammawar Kafawa community and has two wives and six children. Narrating his experience with regards to the trend in his community, Inusa told Vanguard correspondent who was one of the 40 journalists who visited the community during the launch of Federal Government’s “Use The Toilet Campaign” in Kano, that he and several households had been victims of cholera at different times.

Inusa who has herds of cattle and also doubles as a peasant farmer, took our correspondent to his home and lamented the hardship he faced in footing the bills of his children who contracted cholera sometime ago. He attributed the cause of the ailment to ignorance on his part and the community as they never thought emptying their bowels openly could be the cause of their predicament.

Emptying their bowels openly

“It was when I took my child to the hospital that I was told he had cholera. This is not limited to my household as several others too were affected. As a peasant farmer, it was difficult to settle the bills, but my child’s life was more important to me. If most of our children were not given adequate medical attention at the time, by now we would not have offspring to take after us since we are aging,” Inusa said in Hausa language.

On open defecation, Inusa said: “We were used to it before now, but when intervention came, we were educated about its effects on our well-being. It was difficult to adapt to the new method but we are grateful that there is widespread behavarioul change in our community. Each household now has a toilet with the support of those that brought about the behaviour change of our people; and neighbouring communities are now adopting our method. As I speak to you, open defecation is prohibited in this community, both for indigenes and visitors with defaulters liable to strict punishment. On account of this, we have not had any case of cholera or diarrhoea in a long time.”

The Village head of Yammawar Kafawa, Rabiu Usman, while outlining the measures employed to curb the prevalence of open defecation, said the community collectively agreed to impose fine on defaulters. “A fine of N2,000 was imposed on kids who defecate openly which their parents would pay, while N3,000 is the penalty for open defecation for adults. Added to this is that the person will have to pack the feaces with his hand to teach others a lesson,” he said.

He noted that the measure has really helped the community as most of its indigenes have adhered strictly to the use of toilets. “Before now, there used to be frequent outbreak of cholera and diarrhoea, but since our compliance there has not been any of such. Each household has a toilet; an emergency toilet is also available in the village square in case one needs to use it when not in the house and also for visitors. There is availability of soap and water for hand washing after defecating,” he informed.

When our correspondent checked some of the facilities which are mostly pit latrines, there was a drop hole cover to control the offensive odour oozing from the latrines with taps and kettles for hand washing. The village head added that the community, which hopes to remain Open Defecation Free, ODF, has constituted a patrol team to monitor compliance. “There is a daily special patrol team that monitors the community to hunt for those defecating openly. We are fully committed to sustaining the tempo and extending to other communities.”

One of the local government’s Rural Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, WASH, personnel, Ado Abdullahi Usman, who spoke to our correspondent, said the buy-in since 2017 has yielded positive results. He said: “We supervise this community and I can tell you that water was a major problem initially. This even predates the practice of open defecation which today is history with the intervention that is now being enjoyed.”

During an advocacy visit to the District head of Dambatta, Sarkin Bai, Dr. Muhktar Adanan, the monarch pleaded with the implementing agencies to extend their catchment areas to other communities in the LGA. He explained that most people in select communities were initially reluctant in using their resources to build toilets.

“But having realised the benefit, the buy-in process became easier, and they took ownership of the programme in their communities. There has been a remarkable behavioural change in communities currently enjoying the intervention because there has been reduction in diseases and also availability of water and toilets,” he said.

2025 benchmark to end open defecation

Of the 774 local government areas in Nigeria, 11 have been certified Open Defecation Free. This leaves 763 LGAs across the six geo-political zones to be captured. The Use-the-Toilet Campaign spearheaded by the Federal Ministry of Water Resources with the support of UNICEF Nigeria and other development partners is tilted towards ending Open Defecation, by 2025 and achieve universal access to safely managed sanitation by 2030.

However, Nigeria currently ranks as second among countries practising open defecation globally, according to 2018 WASH National Outcome Routine Mapping survey. Statistics spurred the Federal Government into action and made it to declare a state of emergency on the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene sector, thus paving way for the behavioual change “Use the toilet” campaign. While Nigeria needs about two million toilets between now and 2025 to achieve the Universal Basic Sanitation target, the current delivery of improved toilet yearly is 160,000.

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To achieve this, journalists at a roundtable session in Kano advocated for an integrated approach to ensure the country achieves its set target by 2025. While Community Led Total Sanitation, CLTS, has been identified as effective in achieving behavioural change from open defecation, as in the case of Yammawar Kafawa and others, the professionals urged the implementing agencies to engage more with state governments to take ownership of the campaign.

This they believe would pave way for increased budgetary allocation for the WASH sector, which would be trickled down to various communities through their LGAs.


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