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World Toilet Day: Ortom lauds UNICEF, releases N100m for WASH implementation

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…launches Benue State ODF Roadmap

BY Peter Duru, Makurdi

Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue state has approved the release of the sum of N100million as government’s commitment towards the implementation of the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, WASH, programme in the state.

The Governor also expressed hope that the sum would in the near future be increased to N400million.

He stated this Thursday in Makurdi, the state capital during the celebration of the World Toilet Day and launch of its Open Defecation Free, ODF, document tagged: Benue State Open Defecation Free Roadmap: A strategy to End Open Defecation by 2030 with a lot of hope.

While commending UNICEF and other partners for supporting the state in its quest to achieve ODF status, the Governor pointed out that the celebration was symbolic and significant as it harped on the important health and environmental benefits when the people build toilets for their personal, family and communal comfort and hygiene.

Represented by the Commissioner for Water Resources and Environment, Engineer Dondo Ahire, Governor Ortom pointed out that with the launch the ODF Road Map “there is no doubt that we are gradually drawing closer to the realization of an open defecation free (ODF) status for Benue State.

“This event therefore marks an important milestone, especially as we unveil the road map on how to achieve the ODF goal in our State. But we have not reached where we are by accident. There has been a focused determination and hard work on the part of all stakeholders in playing their roles well.

“It is essential to recall that on 10 December last year, we declared a state of emergency on WASH and launched the Clean Benue: Use the Toilet campaign. We also inaugurated the inter-ministerial Steering Committee for the Revitalization of WASH Sector in our State.

“Following that development, the Benue State Ministry of Water Resources and Environment and BERWASSA in collaboration with our Development Partners: UNICEF and United Purpose, supported the production of a draft document that was validated at a stakeholders workshop here in Makurdi on the 8” and 9″ of September, this Year.

“Again, the inaugural meeting of the inter-ministerial Steering Committee on the revitalization of the WASH Sector in Benue State was held on 23™ October, also this year.”

Speaking further Governor Ortom said, “we are launching the final document tagged, Benue State Open Defecation Free Road Map: A strategy to End Open Defecation by 2030 with a lot of hope.

“This is a vital step in our journey to end open defecation because it provides us with the guide and all the steps to take to end open defecation in all our communities and Local Government Areas in Benue State. As I earlier pointed out, so much work has been done to bring us to where we are today. However, so much work remains to be done to reach where we want to be.”

Continuing, he said, “In retrospect, our success story shows that under RUSHPIN programme, Logo, Gwer East and Agatu LGAs were declared ODF wide LGA. Similarly, under the SHAWN programme, Ogbadibo, Korshisha and Oju are presently ODF LGAs. Hopefully, by the end of this month, Obi and Guma may be validated as ODF by NTGS while Tarkaa and Buruku are about 95 percent close to being validated and declared ODF by January, 2021.

“This step by step account of our efforts and the successes already recorded, I must emphasise, have come about through the collaboration, cooperation and commitment of all stakeholders. And it is with the same commitment that we hope to accomplish our final goal in the near future.

“As we officially launch this document, we charge managements within MDAs, affiliated agencies and institutions to establish Clean Benue Task Teams. This is with the view to tracking the delivery of ODF status on or before 2025 in all establishments in this State: schools, hospitals, offices, prisons, motor parks, markets and all public places.

“I wish to also announce the approval of the sum of N100million as the State Govement’s financial commitment towards the implementation of WASH in Benue. Let me quickly add that, it is our hope to increase this commitment to N400million.

“We cannot thank you enough, our Development Partners, for your support and for embarking on this laudable journey with us. We appreciate our people for embracing this programme and their cooperation which has helped in no small measure towards the achievement we have recorded so far,” he added.

Also speaking, the WASH Manager, UNICEF Enugu office, Mamita Thakkar observed that the launch of the Benue State ODF Road Map, coinciding with the celebration of the World Toilet Day and the Exit Meeting of the SHAWN project of UNICEF, supported by DFID/now FCDO.

She stated that “the Benue State Open Defecation Free Road Map is linked to a larger national vision for creating an Open Defecation Free country by 2025. The Federal Government of Nigeria declared a state of emergency on the WASH sector and launched a National Action Plan (NAP) for the revitalization of the WASH sector in November 2018. To meet the sanitation goals the FGN also launched the Clean Nigeria: Use a Toilet Campaign. In support of the national campaign, Benue has also Declared a State of Emergency on the WASH Sector in their State; Inaugurated an inter-ministerial State Steering Committee chaired by the Governor or designate; Signed the PEWSH protocol and A ODF Strategy or a Road Map to set the State Vision, Mission and Targets.”

Explaining what the roadmap was all about, Thakkar said, “This Road Map is a key guiding document that outlines the goals, objectives, timelines and strategies to make Benue ODF by 2025. The key objectives of the Benue ODF Roadmap are: Achieve ODF status in Benue State by 2025, with every person, everywhere having a safe place to use as toilet; Establish the systems – policies, regulations, and structures required for the attainment of the SDG target of safely managed sanitation by 2030; Strengthen the capacity of sanitation and hygiene institutions and actors to meet the needs of the new vision and targets, including a robust M&E system; and Secure the funding, commensurate to the needs and demands of the vision and targets.”

According to her, “Benue has already delivered six LGAs as Open Defecation Free. However, there are 17 LGAs which are yet to achieve this target, including at least 9 LGAs where no CLTS activities have started. In the last five years less than 50% of the planned allocation has been released. 18000 institutions (schools, educational institutions, Health Care Facilities, courts, public places, motor parks) need toilets and water facilities to run these toilets. Almost 1.2 million toilets are required for households without access – in next four years. So, how do we go about this?

“We need a multi pronged and a multi level approach. We need results at scale. There needs to be a combination of strategies to achieve sanitation at scale, The NORM data of 2018-19 show 50% of the population in Benue which is close to 2.9 million, practice Open Defecation and only 9% of the HHs have access to soap and water for handwashing. This is indeed not and encouraging picture.

“Investment in five key ‘accelerators’ can be a pathway towards states’ and countries’ achievement of safe sanitation for all.

“Good governance, beginning with strong political leadership, effective coordination and regulation.

“Smart public finance to lay the foundation for safe sanitation services, support the most vulnerable, and attract private investment.

“Institutional Capacities across the sanitation sector, including training, human resources development, organizational development, community institutions, awareness, social mobilization and demand for sanitation.

  • Reliable data for better decision-making and stronger accountability
  • Innovation to unlock better approaches and meet emerging challenges like urbanization and climate change

“Because clean water and sanitation is not only about hygiene and disease, they’re about dignity, too. Many examples show that self-esteem begins with having a safe and proper toilet facility. We need to change our perception of sanitation from being a stand-alone issue to one that impinges on several areas of our growth and development, of countries and is central to many of the SDGs – health, women’s equality, education, energy, nutrition and poverty.

READ ALSO: President Trump declares state of emergency in Louisiana

More-so, she said, “Today, as never before, we need to understand the interconnectedness of our actions. Sanitation has tangible returns on investments. In India, annual health gains from household sanitation are estimated to be worth US$ 402 per household. Total economic gains of achieving basic sanitation in India are projected to be worth 7.7% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.

“As we move forward, lets not lose sight of global best practices – what lessons can we learn from India. A country with 1.3 billion population and approx. 540 million defecating in the open in 2014. In 2014, the Government of India launched Clean India Mission. The goal was to make rural India Open Defecation Free by October 2, 2019 – TARGET WAS SET. The government has reported 100 million toilets being built and over 500,000 villages declared ODF.

“This transformation was triggered by the so-called four Ps: Political leadership, Public funding, Partnerships, and People’s participation. Top-level leadership from the Prime Minister, backed by US$20 billion in funding, and human resources at various levels were key ingredients to the success.

“Incentives was used to inspire good work. Performance under the campaign became an indicator that shaped career advancement of civil servants. District officers, village leaders and local committees championing SBM were visited by relevant authorities and publicly recognized. The Prime Minister awarded top-performers in national ceremonies.

“The government partnered with development partners, private sector entities, philanthropic organizations, religious leaders, youth, and women, and made sanitation everyone’s business. Influencers and celebrities, including famous Bollywood stars, became champions and helped turn SBM into a powerful movement.

“At the community level, households were exposed to a locally-defined mix of community-based approaches, including school rallies, monitoring by village-level committees, and sanctions for those practicing open defecation, combined with comprehensive social media and behavior change communication at the local level.

“Generous cash incentives were provided to poor and vulnerable households, usually delivered once households had built toilets that were durable and matched people’s aspirations. Progress is monitored using a comprehensive and publicly accessible online portal.

“Moving forward, this strategic document will be positioned in the public domain, to be used by everyone in spirit and action, and UNICEF hopes that this will strengthen coordinated actions towards ODF Benue.

“We hope this, along with other strategic actions will also fulfill the conditionalities to access federal WASH funds and these will be reinvested in the state. I call upon everyone to pledge support to implement this stratey, and starting with a review of the goals and impacts and what we want to achieve, work backwards on the key interventions.”

On his part, the Security and Logistics Manager of WATERAID Nigeria, Mr. Jonathan Kuusu stated that only five percent of the 774 LGAs in Nigeria are ODF as declared by the National Task Group on Sanitation.

He said, “if we must attain the Nigeria target of ending open defecation by 2025 and the SDG target of 2030, then government the private sector at all levels must double investment in the Sanitation subsector.”

Also speaking, the General Manager of BERWASSA, Mrs. Torkwase Ikyaator said the partnership of the state with international donors agencies had actually paid off as evident in the numerous construction of sanitation facilities in PHCCs, Schools, IDPs camps and other public places.

“Through the intervention of these donors, the state has recorded six ODF LGAs, the first state to achieve that status in the North Central Zone and more are being expected,” she said.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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