…supporting RUWASSA to enhance WASH service delivery to about 45,000 people
By Peter Duru, Makurdi
The United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, Tuesday donated 5,000 Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, WASH, kits and 100 Touchless Hand Washing Stations as COVID-19 interventions to Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs camps in Benue state.
Making the presentation in Makurdi, the UNICEF WASH Manager, Enugu Field Officer, Mamita Bora Thakkar noted that the supply of 100 hand washing facilities was made possible by its donor, the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Organization, ECHO, for which the global body remained grateful.
Represented by Mr. Toyin Adisa, the WASH Manager noted that the donation of the Kits and the handwashing facilities to the IDPs in the State was part of UNICEF’s COVID-19 response.
She observed that “UNICEF in partnership with the Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency, RUWASSA, has been supporting WASH interventions in these IDP camps for the past few years.
“However, today, we are confronting probably one of the worst public health crisis in recent times, which is the COVID 19 pandemic.
“While countries are grappling with finding solutions ranging from prevention to treatment, WASH continue to remain at the core of all prevention strategies related to COVID 19.
“The provision of safe water, sanitation and hygiene is essential to protecting human health during all infectious disease outbreaks, including the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Ensuring good WASH services in communities, homes, schools, marketplaces and health care facilities helps to prevent human-to-human transmission of the COVID-19 virus.
“And in emergency settings like IDP camps, with poor living conditions and service delivery, the likelihood of transmission and infection is even higher.
“The camps present some significant criticalities especially when it comes to overcrowding, shelter, water availability and sanitation situation.
“Functionality and adequacy of WASH facilities remain one of the major causes of concern here, with some facilities either poorly maintained and in state of disrepair or not adequate enough to meet the population pressure.
“So, the purpose of these supplies is to ensure that communities in these IDP camps tide over the immediate need for enhanced WASH materials, are able to regularly wash hands and in the process also internalize this practice for life.
“Never before has there been a greater emphasis on washing hands with soap, as a public health measure. We hope that when facilities and systems are available, and when the practice is repeated over time, the habit will stick. I hope that these handwashing facilities will catalyse this long term behaviour in the communities.
“The supply of these 100 handwashing facilities have been made possible by UNICEF’s donor, European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Organization, ECHO, and UNICEF is deeply grateful for this support.”
Continuing, Thakkar said the foot operated handwashing stations would be placed in the nine IDP camps at locations which could be easily accessed by maximum number of people, including small children.
According to her “community systems and user groups are being built to ensure proper use and maintenance, regular replenishment of soaps and daily filling of water to keep these functional.
“Our partner NGO BENGONET will continue to carry out community training and facilitation interventions including door to door hygiene promotion campaign in these camps, in an effort to improve hygiene practices.
“5000 WASH Kits are also being distributed to households. These WASH Kits will ensure that WASH materials are readily available to those most vulnerable households in these IDP camps, who are at greater risk of infection or contamination.
“Poorest households from amongst the IDPs, households with more than 4 children or those with large families, households having senior and aged members and those with at least one physically challenged person have been identified for distribution of these WASH Kits.
“Outside of this distribution as a part of COVID response, UNICEF is also supporting RUWASSA to enhance WASH service delivery to about 45,000 people, to help prevent faeco-oral contamination and transmission of disease by improving access to WASH services and hygiene promotion initiatives.
“We are focussing on improving and sustaining access to and use of clean water, provision of handwashing facilities in schools and communities, gender segregated improved sanitation facilities, improved operation and maintenance of infrastructure, supply of cleaning materials, improved handwashing and hygiene promotion in schools, communities and HCFs.
“The project in these IDP camps is supporting the construction of 6 new handpump boreholes and 4 solar motorised boreholes and rehabilitation of 8 hand pump boreholes and 4 solar motorised boreholes. Plans for construction and rehabilitation of public sanitation facilities are underway.
“Hygiene promotion will continue to be central to UNICEF’s inputs, focusing on adoption of handwashing with soap practices, through use of social and behaviour change communication and campaigns in schools and communities.
“The project is also aiming at supporting interventions to make Guma Local Government Area, LGA ODF, which is hoped to become a significant achievement during the COVID 19 times.
“It has been an example of a good partnership between RUWASSA, BENGONET and UNICEF in our pursuit of achieving WASH outcomes in the country.
“However, for such initiatives to scale, we ned more public private partnerships, we need new ways to engage the private sector, where the strengths of private sector can be harnessed for community benefits.”
“I look forward to some exciting WASH results through this collaborative engagement, in future,” she added.
Flagging off the distribution, Wife of the Benue State Governor, Dr. Eunice Ortom said the intervention would go a long way to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 among the IDPs in camps in parts of the state.
Represented by the Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism , Mrs. Ngunan Addingi, the Governor’s Wife opined that “we have come face to face with a serious pandemic that’s threatening life, health, economies. livelihood, education and growth of a nation.
“At the heart of addressing this pandemic is ‘prevention‘ and we know that the provision of safe water, sanitation and hygienic conditions is essential for protecting human health during all infectious disease outbreaks, including coronavirus disease of 2019 (COVID-19).
“We need access to WASH in communities, homes, schools, marketplaces, and healthcare facilities to prevent human-to-human transmission of this virus. Washing your hands is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“In many situations, lack of access to a tap and water or soap is a reality for many populations, including Benue, especially in the IDP camps.
“I am very happy to learn that UNICEF recognizes the need for ensuring the sustained provision of WASH in these camps, which are over-crowded, where services presently are poor and the risk of contamination is high.
“I am extremely happy that UNICEF has worked closely with partners: RUWASSA and BENGONET to identify these IDP camps as high-risk areas and have agreed to provide handwashing facilities with soaps and WASH Kits.
“The WASH Kits is a great contribution to those 5,000 vulnerable families who do not have access to basic materials for hygiene, storage of clean water or other WASH supplies.
“These Kits will help these families address the immediate need for clean water and hygiene and thus reduce their risk of infection.
“We are deeply grateful to UNICEF’s donor, European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), who has provided the necessary financial support for the supply of the Handwashing facilities.
“These facilities are not only critical to ensure that the lDPs in these camps including children can wash hands conveniently and as when required, but this will also instill a longer-term change in their practices towards hand-washing.
“I am sure these handwashing facilities will lead to an understanding on the need for frequent and correct hand hygiene practice as one of the critical measures to prevent infection with the COVlD-19 virus.
“I am sure this practice in the camps will reduce the exposure to the disease of these vulnerable communities. I urge our traditional rulers, our Chiefs, village elders, media and all other concerned individuals to spread community awareness on the need to practice personal hygiene and all other COVID-19 related protocols.
“Once these handwashing facilities are installed, I urge communities to take charge of these structures, to ensure that they have water at all times, soap at all times and that people are using it. It’s the responsibility of the user groups WASHCOMS or the community leaders to ensure maintenance.”
According to Dr. Ortom “this is also a time to take a deeper look at sanitation status in the State. With only 11% of the State‘s population having access to basic sanitation and hygiene services, we run a serious public health risk.
“The State needs to tackle this issue and in this, we do need the support of bilateral agencies, civil society partners, donors, private sectors, individuals and several other stakeholders whose contribution remains critical to achieving the sanitation outcomes.
“I am happy to note that RUWASSA, with the support of UNICEF and its partner BENGONET, is aiming to make Guma LGA free from Open Defecation, over the next few months. This will be a flagship achievement, especially during the COVID times and I look forward to joining the celebrations.
“I congratulate all those involved in supporting WASH service delivery in the IDPs camps which remain vulnerable. I wish all success to the WASH Humanitarian programme and I hope the present WASH Supplies will not only ensure access to better hygiene materials but leave a life long impact in the communities in terms of improvement in hygiene practices, which was never ever more relevant than the present times,” she stated.
Also speaking, the Benue state Deputy Governor, Engr. Benson Abounu commended UNICEF for its various interventions in the state pointing out that the world body was the first United Nations agency to intervene in the state’s IDPs situation with WASH activities.
Represented by David Adzenda, the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Emergency, Engr. Abounu also recalled that “In 2018 also they received a grant from the Nigerian Humanitarian Fund to implement WASH and Emergency Education in many lDPs Camps.
“They worked with the Benue State Emergency Management Agency, SEMA, the Benue State Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and BERWASSA to implement the programme.
“To add to UNICEF’s score card, they have drilled boreholes across the State with 50% counterpart funding from Benue State Government. They are presently drilling 69 boreholes in various destinations in the state.
“Today, again, UNICEF has rolled out a COVID-19 based WASH intervention for the IDPs and host communities in Benue State.
“We have received 120,000 bar soap, 5,000 Kettles, 10,000 jerry cans, 5,000 buckets, 5,000 aqua tabs for water treatment and 5,000 WASH kits for distribution to the PoCs.
“On behalf of the State Government I wish to express our deep appreciation for this kind gesture and to also use this opportunity to call on other international partners, donors, NGOs, corporate organizations and spirited individuals to emulate UNICEF’s gesture of responding to the needs of the displaced in order to ameliorate their sufferings.
“Let me assure all that the items received would be used for the exact purpose for which they are intended,” said the Deputy Governor.
The Commissioner for Water Resources and Environment, Engr. Dondo Ahire, who was represented by his Permanent Secretary, Mr. Wilfred Ogli, in his speech commended Governor Samuel Ortom for proving the counterpart fund that attracted international partnerships with UNICEF and other donors.
He said “the intervention by UNICEF would go a long way to cushion the sufferings of Benue IDPs and I urge other international organizations to emulate the UNICEF example and I promise that the items would be put to good use.”
In her remarks the General Manger of Benue State Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency, BERWASSA, Mrs. Torkwase Ikyaator acknowledged that her agency’s partnership with UNICEF was to a very large extent impacting the lives of the people of the state.
“This is the third time we are gathering like this for the purpose of distributing materials in response to COVlD-l9.
First, it was the distribution of IEC materials on awareness creation on Sign and Symptoms and Prevention measures of COVlD-l9 to the 23 LGAs in Benue State. This was the combined efforts of BERWASSA and UNICEF.
“Today we are here again in a big way to distribute what we are all seeing here: 5,000 each of bucket, jerry cans, kettles, cups, over 2,000 bar soap, 100 touch-less Hand Washing Stations, Liquid soap, Aqua tablets for purifying water.
“We at BERWASSA are calling on the camp Commandants, WASHComs, WASH Coordinators and CSO working in these lDP camps to ensure that these items get to the intended beneficiaries.
“To ensure the items reach the Households (HH) we have developed registers in which the camp Commandants will collect the items and sign in the presence of CSO and WASH Coordinators, in the same manner at the IDP camps also is a register where each HH signs the number of items collected in the present of CSO.
“To sustain the Hand Washing stations at the camps we have drawn a MoU to be signed between BERWASSA and the State Emergency Management Agency, SEMA to ensure the steady supply of liquid soap.
“The same touch-less Hand Washing stations will go to camps and some neighboring institutions (schools, Health care facilities).
“It is therefore our collective responsibility to ensure that these items get to the intended beneficiaries and yield intended outcomes from today’s event,” she assured.
In a good will message, the BENGONET Chairman, Mrs. Rachel Ityonzughul pointed out the importance of Water Sanitation and Hygiene to the wellbeing and protection of human lives.
Stressing, “this is why there is need to provide potable water in our communities, homes, public places and indeed our IDP camps; as lack of access to safe water is tantamount to a community exposed to diseases of all sorts inducing COVID-19.
“Hence this timely move by UNICEF and ECHO to provide these very much needed items including hand washing materials, kettles, jerry cans, and other items in IDP Camps, being continued measures to prevent the spread of this novel virus, must be commended and appreciated.
“UNICEF’s recognition of the fact that the IDPs camps very much need to be supported in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic is highly applauded.
“To the end users -WASHCOM and camp members, it ls my sincere desire that you will not just see the need to put these items to judicious use, but also ensure their maintenance in order to safeguard and preserve them.
“Make sure to also strictly adhere to the WHO stipulated COVID-19 preventive measures of regular hand washing with soap and running water, use of alcohol based hand sanitizers, wearing of facemasks in public places and observance of social distancing.
“Permit me therefore to specially appreciate all who have at one time or the other, played one role or the other in ensuring that lives of the most vulnerable in our society are improved, as I encourage us to continuously make efforts of improving WASH in our communities in a bid to make ours a healthier state,” she added.
In a vote of thanks, the Executive Secretary of Benue SEMA, Dr. Emmanuel Shior, commended UNICEF for the laudable interventions in the lives of IDPs in the state especially in the areas of WASH, Emergency education and several others.
Represented by his Technical Assistant, Mr. Alexander Chia, the Executive Secretary on behalf of the IDPs in the state commended UNICEF for the intervention assuring that all the items would be distributed appropriately to the IDPs and equally put to good use and protected by the camp managers.