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Sanitation methods review can curb COVID-19 spread, say WASHMATA, LEAD

WASHMATA Initiatives, in partnership with Leadership in Environment and Development Anglophone West Africa (LEAD-AWA), has called for the review of the sanitation promotion methods to curb the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.

sanitation exercise in Lagos
A clean-up exercise in Lagos

The NGO made the call in a communique jointly signed by its Chief Executive Officer, Dr Boluwaji Onabolu, and the Regional Programme Director of LEAD-AWA, Mrs Maureen Akintayo, on Tuesday, July 14, 2020 in Abuja.

The communique said that, with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, sanitation and hygiene and clean water supply are essential services that can make a lot of difference between life and death.

The NGOs noted that, in order to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic, sanitation services delivery must go with the provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Infection Prevention and Control of COVID-19 training for the WASH field workers.

The communique emphasised the need for the inclusion of state WASH agencies in COVID-19 task teams, development of statewide multi-level monitoring and reporting systems.

It also called for increased synergy between the various donor and government-supported WASH programmes, organised private-sector participation, documentation of best practices, leadership training and peer to peer learning through a community of practice.

The NGOs noted that only 27 local government areas have been declared Open Defecation Free (ODF) in the country.

The communique  further noted that the number represented less than 4 per cent of the 774 area councils in Nigeria with Benue and Katsina having the highest number of ODF LGAs.

The communique said the revelation was part of its panel discussion tagged: “WASH Matters Hard Talk” held in Abuja by Nigerian WASH professionals including the chief executives of  Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agencies from six states.

It listed the states to include Katsina, Zamfara, Benue, Plateau, Adamawa and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

According to the communique, during the panel discussions, the panelists shared innovations and best practices.

“Some of which included functional WASH LGA departments, engagement with faith-based organisations and linking sanitation promotion to MSME development.

“24.4 per cent of Nigerians (47 million) have not yet begun to climb the sanitation ladder posing a major challenge to health, education, nutrition and poverty indices in the country.

“Since these 27 LGAs were declared open defecation free in 4 years (2016 to 2020) it is evidently possible to address this backlog by the end of 2025.

“With the proviso that each state will commit to ensuring open defecation free status in an average of two LGAs per year to achieve the goal of the Clean Nigeria Campaign of Federal Government of Nigeria.”

The communique highlighted some challenges drawn from the panel discussions which include the fear in the minds of field workers about contracting COVID-19 infection and the unwillingness of the populace to change behaviour.

“Other challenges are delays in release of funds; donor fund dependence by states and agencies not taking sufficient advantage of the opportunities in sanitation for SME business development, inadequate learning and sharing of best practices.“

The programme was attended by various professionals from the WASH and health sector including Ms Kate Kanebi, representing the European Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS.

Others are the Executive Secretary of the Lagos Water Regulatory Commission, Mrs Funke Adepoju, Organised Private Sector for WASH represented by Dr Nicholas Igwe and Dr Jumai Ahmadu, Coordinator FCT COVID-19 Situation Room.

By Salisu Sani-Idris

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