UNICEF tasks Borno gov’t on sustainability of open defecation-free communities

The UN Children’s Fund on Thursday urged Borno State Government to sustain the Open Defecation Free (ODF) status already recorded in its two local governments, and replicate such in other parts of the state.

Ms. Phuong Nguyen, UNICEF Chief of Field Office, Northeast Nigeria, said this at the opening of a two-day Media Dialogue on Open Defecation in Biu, Borno state.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that two local government areas of Shani and Biu were declared ODF by the National Task Group on Sanitation in November 2022.

Nguyen said Open defecation was a threat to child survival, particularly for those who live in communities affected by conflict, saying the declaration of Biu and Shani as open defecation free is a gift to vulnerable children and families.

“We cannot withdraw this gift. Rather, we must improve on the status quo and extend what has worked here to other communities in Born State. Indeed, if it is possible in Biu and Shani, it is possible for other communities too.

“It is important to bear in mind that becoming open defecation-free is a journey, and not a destination. There are key elements of this journey that we must maintain.

“These include a sustained access to safely managed water and improved toilets both at the household and institutional levels. In Biu, Shani and elsewhere in Borno State, Government must lead and invest more in water, sanitation and hygiene facilities”.

The UN chief said for Biu and Shani to maintain their ODF status, key elements of the construction of toilets in institutions such as schools, health centres and markets must be sustained.

She said households must be supported to maintain their improved toilets just as access to safe water for households and public institutions must be sustained.

“We must invest more to strengthen sustainability efforts, including sensitisation on hygiene services. Communities must be accountable in the protection and maintenance of WASH facilities”.

Alhaji Babagana Saad, Acting General Manager, Borno Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency (RUWASSA), said key factors in the achievement of ODF status included joint funding of projects activities between Government and development partners.

He said the state government also declared the first Saturday of the month as an environmental sanitation day for its residents to take ownership of their hygiene and enactment of a bye law on sanitation.

The general manager said Traditional leaders had played their part in encouraging the community members in taking ownership of the WASH facilities provided.

Saad however pledged the commitment of the state government to continue or work with UNICEF and other donors to sustain the status of the open defecation communities.

“RUWASSA will also work with respective stakeholders to champion the enactment of a law to upgrade the current LGA WASH Units to WASH department.

“This is in order to be independent, facilitate the attainment and sustaining the ODF status in all the LGAs in the State.

“We sincerely want to commend the efforts, and contributions made by UNICEF, other development partners and WASH unit staff for this achievement”.

Earlier, the UNICEF WASH Specialist, Mr Lonis Salihu, said the organisation was using the ‘No one is Left Behind’ mantra to ensure that communities imbibed the behavior change approach to build and use their toilets at all times.

Salihu said borno had shown the possibility of becoming an ODF state through its commitment, strategies and funding mechanisms.

“We will continue to support the state and ensure that other local governments launch their Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) efforts, this is to see that open defecation creates a demand for sanitation marketing”.

The WASH specialist noted that sanitation marketing had seen business expansions for toilet business owners, saying many of them had been linked to Microfinance institutions for access to revolving loans.

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