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Thursday, September 21, 2023

Enugu declares emergency, inaugurates committee to address WASH challenges

The Enugu State Government has declared a state-of-emergency in its Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector. While making the declaration on January 23, 2020, the state government also established an 18-member inter-ministerial committee to revamp the WASH area.

Enugu WASH
Members of the #ClaimYourWaterRights team with members of the Inter-ministerial committee for the revitalisation of Enugu WASH sector

The declaration comes after a series of advocacy meetings between state officials, Enugu’s water utility provider, the Ministry of Water Resources, and civil society organisations to reinforce the Nigerian citizen’s rights to safe drinking water.

Commonly referred to as the capital of southeastern Nigeria and well known for its abundant natural reserves of coal, Enugu has been plagued with perennial water scarcity that is exacerbated by the state’s topography, making it difficult to access groundwater.

According to WaterAid Nigeria, over half (2.37 million) of Enugu residents lack basic water services. Further, the research showed that lack of access to WASH is a major contributor to poverty and poor health with almost one in 10 children under age five being stunted. Despite several funding interventions by the state government and international development organisations such as the World Bank, millions of people in Enugu are still denied their human rights to safe drinking water.

Disturbed by such statistics, Hope Spring Water, a not-for-profit outfit,  targeted Enugu as a key state to implement the #ClaimYourWaterRights campaign, which seeks to end water poverty through mobilising people to advocate for their human rights to safe drinking water.

The declaration shows the government has recognised the decay in water and sanitation services and is ready to revamp the sector. The 18-man inter-ministerial committee comprises experienced directors, officials from Enugu’s water corporation as well as heads of state ministries such as health, water resources, justice and environment. Civil society organisations (CSOs) are also represented.

According to Mr. Temple Oraeki, the Nigeria Country Representative of Hope Spring Water Charity Foundation and the Coordinator of #ClaimYourWaterRights Campaign, the two key outcomes expected from the declaration are: improved water supply and an end to open Defecation in Enugu State.

He reiterated that the declaration shows commitment on the part of government and holds promises for Enugu residents who, according to him, are faced with the daily ordeals of water poverty. Responding to what the declaration means for the #ClaimYourWaterRights team, he stated that this is just one of the milestones to be achieved by the campaign, while stressing that the declaration has spurred the team to intensify the campaign in the state.

The #ClaimYourWaterRights campaign was initiated by End Water Poverty Coalition and the team in Enugu State comprises 12 grassroots youth-led civil society organisations, led by Hope Spring Water.

Immediately after the official declaration by the state government, the #ClaimYourWaterRights team visited the Special Adviser to Enugu State Governor on Water Resources, Mr. Dubem Onyia, who heads the newly inaugurated inter-ministerial committee, to learn their plans to improve the state’s water supply.

Onyia confirmed the government’s commitment to ending water poverty in Enugu State, while stating that the government has already started to rehabilitate most of the state’s water production and distribution networks. He reiterated that the state government has approved funds for the rehabilitation of the 9th Mile water supply scheme that is due to be completed in the first half of 2020.

Onyia also confirmed that the state’s WASH Policy, which has long lingered, would soon be passed into law. Another development which he pointed out was the ongoing dialogue for the receipt of $50 million of funding from the French Development Agency (AFD) for the revamp of Enugu State Water Corporation. In terms of advocacy and capacity building, he reiterated the need for collaboration with civil society and development partners.

Nigeria is said to be the open defecation capital of Africa: As at the time of preparing this report, out of 774 local government areas in Nigeria, only 20 have been certified open defecation free (ODF). Of the 20 areas that are ODF, none are in the south east.

Therefore, following the declaration of state-of-emergency in Enugu State’s WASH sector, it is expected that the state will produce the first ODF local government in the southeast. Onyia expressed his willingness to make this happen.

Mr. Temple stressed that the #ClaimYourWaterRights team would continue to engage the government at various levels to ensure the proposed plans are implemented.

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