The Federal Government has raised concerns over the figure of persons practicing open defecation in the country, insisting that government and partners need to put in more efforts, if the country must achieve Open Defecation Free (ODF) by 2025.
While it (FG) acknowledged that the challenges were enormous, it noted that the FG was committed to pursuing the collaborative efforts required in addressing the issue of open defecation.
Minister of Water Resources, Engr Suleiman Adamu, who made this known last weekend while declaring Ogbadibo LGA of Benue state ODF at its council secretariat, pegged the estimated figures of those practicing open defecations in the country at about 47 million people.
Out of the number, Benue accounts for about 2.9 million persons that practice open defecations.
Adamu explained that the partnership between the FG, United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID), the United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF), as well as state governments in the SHAWN project being implemented in eight states of the federation would yield results.
The states where the SHAWN project is being implemented are Bauchi, Jigawa, Benue, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Yobe and Zamfara.
The Minister said, “We however recognise that the benefits of improved water supply cannot be optimal without corresponding improvement in sanitation and hygiene practices.
“With a current estimation of about 47 million people in the country practising open defecation, the highest in Sub-Saharan Africa, and a national sanitation access of 42%, we understand that we need to do much more if we are to eliminate open defecation and achieve 100% access to sanitation and hygiene in the country.
“We acknowledge this challenge and are strongly committed to pursuing the collaborative efforts required in addressing the issue.”
Adamu further pointed out that “As at January this year (2020), we have been able to record 20 ODF LGAs in the country in our pursuit of making Nigeria open defecation free by 2025. Today’s celebration of Ogbadibo ODF status is an indication that progress is being made towards our target.
“I believe that these achievements are an indication of the high priority my Ministry and other partners have placed on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH).
“The Federal Ministry of Water Resources has over the years ensured improvement in access to water supply across the country with our national access estimated at 69% in 2018 up from 40% in 1990.
“It is therefore worthy to note that Ogbadibo LGA is the first among the eight SHAWN implementing LGAs in Benue state under this programme to achieve this notable feat of attaining open defecation free status.”, he stated.
Meanwhile, the General Manager, Benue State Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency (BERWASSA), Torkwase Ikyaator, said the Agency was inspired by the landmark achievement recorded by the state, which would go a long way to reducing the outbreak of diseases in communities of the state.
Represented at the occasion by the Secretary of the Agency, Tony Mkpem said the Agency plans to sustain the gains and place the LGA on the path of continued improvement.
According to him, “We will continue to motivate and empower community leaders to sustain the gains made in sanitation and focus them on the path of continued improvement.