Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom

The Federal Ministry of Water Resources has declared Gwer East Local Government Area in Benue, Open-Defecation-Free (ODF), having met the requirement slated in the ODF protocol for hygiene promotion.

Mr Emmanuel Awe, Director, Water Quality Supply and Sanitation, Federal Ministry of Water Resources, declared the area ODF on Thursday after it met the stipulated requirement.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that before attaining the ODF status, communities would have eliminated open defecation and imbibed total sanitation practices which include personal, environmental and domestic hygiene.

The communities would have also had 100 percent toilet use and increased ownership and sustainability of hygiene and sanitation services.

Awe, represented by Mrs. Kogbara Ayaba, from the ministry, commended the people of Gwer East for the landmark achievement.

According to him, the achievement earns Benue another first, being the first to have LG-wide ODF (Logo LGA), and now the first to have the second LGA as ODF in the North-Central Region of Nigeria.

“This has increased the total number of LGAs that are ODF to 16 in the Country. I urge you to continue with these accomplishments and aspire to become the first state to attain statewide ODF status.

“The benefits of access to improved WASH, especially of living in an open defecation free environments, impacts on education, health, security and socioeconomic wellbeing of the people.”

While commending efforts of development partners in scaling up access to improved hygiene, he urged the members of the community to remain steadfast.

He said it was unfortunate that Nigeria found herself on the top of the ladder of countries with the highest number of people practicing open defecation, second behind India and the first in Africa.

“As a country that prides herself as the giant of Africa, this is certainly not a good image. With an estimated 47 million people indulging in the act, the practice of open defecation is a norm in many communities due to lack of sanitation facilities.

“Also, many public places either lack sanitation facilities or have facilities that are not accessible or fit for use.”

He noted that an assessment of the status of the sector in 2017 revealed that the sector was in a critical condition which needed more attention with a minimum of three times the investment required to achieve the SDGs for water and sanitation.

This assessment, he added, led to the development of the National Action Plan for the revitalisation of the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector, which was launched by the President on 8th November 2018, with the declaration of a State of Emergency in the Sector.

He noted that the Federal Executive Council, on 8th May, 2019 approved the carrying out of a Clean Nigeria – Use the Toilet Campaign to end open defecation in Nigeria by 2025.

“The Campaign was launched on the 19th of November, 2019 by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo. The Clean Nigeria Campaign is a national transformative initiative to mobilise the entire populace towards imbibing the culture of safe and sustainable sanitation practices towards the 2025 target date.

“It is important that households are mobilised to provide their sanitation facilities, and relevant government institutions and the private sector provide sanitation facilities in public places such as schools, health care centres, parks and markets, in order to realise total coverage and sustainable access for the populace.

“The Campaign is backed by an Executive Order 009, which was signed by Mr President on Wednesday, 20th November, 2019. The Federal Government recognises the fact that action to end open defecation in Nigeria will require the contribution and commitment of everyone.’’

While noting that the primary responsibility for provision of WASH services lies with the States and LGs, Awe reiterated Federal Government’s commitment to supporting sub-national level initiatives towards improving access to WASH services for the populace.

The director also commended United Purpose and the Rural Sanitation and Hygiene Programme in Nigeria, for their leadership roles, having received funding from the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC).

“The RUSHPIN Programme is truly becoming the model sanitation programme we originally intended it to be when we approached the Global Sanitation Fund in 2010 to support Nigeria in shaping the Sanitation sub-sector.”

Mr Nanpet Chuktu, Programme Manager, United Purpose Nigeria, in a remark, said that the people of Gwer East were able to end open defecation through a collective behaviour change process.

“As a result of such practice, an estimated 227,700 people living in the LG now live in clean, healthy environments.

“This uptake of improved sanitation practice has impacted greatly on the lives of the people of Gwer East, especially on the lives of children under 5 years, who are the main victims of diseases resulting from poor sanitation and hygiene practices.

“The people of Gwer East have today gathered to celebrate their attainment of ODF status. This celebration is significant as it is following the declaration of a state of emergency on Water and Sanitation by the State Governor, Dr Samuel Ortom and the launch of the Clean Benue-Use the toilet Campaign which happened on Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019.

“The declaration of the state of emergency and launch of the Clean Benue campaign shows that Benue State is committed to achieving SDG6 by 2025 in line with the National Plan to end Open Defecation in Nigeria by 2025.

“Gwer East is the fourth LG under the Rural Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion in Nigeria (RUSHPIN) Programme to attain ODF status, following Obanliku, Bekwarra (Cross River State) and Logo (Benue State).

“The Programme has, thus, proven to be a model to take sanitation to scale. With continued support from the Government of Benue State three additional LGs– Ado, Gboko and Gwer West – are in line to becoming ODF.”

The RUSHPIN programme is an initiative of the Government of Nigeria, implemented with funding from the Global Sanitation Fund (GSF)/Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC).

United Purpose (UP), an international NGO headquartered in the UK, is the Executing Agency of the RUSHPIN programme.

The programme uses the ‘Community-led Total Sanitation’ approach, empowering entire communities to collectively change their sanitation and hygiene behaviour, and ensuring that every community member uses a toilet and practices good hygiene