The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) in collaboration with the European Union (EU) and the government of Cross River has concluded Phase 2 of the Water Supply Sanitation Sector Reform Programme (WSSSRP) in the state.
The programme, which was aimed at ensuring portable water supply in Yakurr and Boki Local Government Areas of Cross River, commenced in 2013.
Mr Ibrahim Kante, the Chief of Field Office, UNICEF Enugu who also covers Cross River, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Calabar, the state capital, that funding for the programme has ended.
Kante however expressed optimism to ensure the sustainability of the gains recorded.
He said over 800 boreholes were drilled in different communities worth N2 billion while the programme lasted in Cross River, which helped in ensuring that the two benefitting local governments were declared Open Defecation Free (ODF).
The official said some challenges, including technical incapacity of the Cross River State Government, delay in implementation and delay in the release of counterpart funds, were recorded.
“We also had challenges with the weather conditions and topography of some of the rural communities that we needed to drill.
“You have to try a couple of locations to get drilling done to get high yield and, sometimes, the contractors were difficult to deal with, so they delayed the process and the poor quality of work done sometimes.
“But I can tell you that the two LGAs we chose are the most deprived when it comes to access to water,” Kante said.
He however assured the communities that even though the funding for the phase had ended, they would not be abandoned by UNICEF completely as they would continue to render technical and other forms of support to them.
Mr Michael Faulsen, the Water Sanitation and Hygiene Programme (WASH) Manager, UNICEF, said the project looked at consolidating the gains of the preceding project WSSSRP 1, which aimed at providing potable water in the state.
Faulsen said the project had the component of sanitation that looked at open defecation in the state.
“We realised that the way people defecate indiscriminately in the open is a vehicle for diseases, so if you give safe water and people still defecate indiscriminately in the open, you won’t achieve the health benefit of the intervention.
“So a component of the project is to work with the communities to strive to ensure that the communities were open defecation free.
“There is a ranking globally in terms of countries that do indiscriminately defecation; it used to be India in number one followed by Nigeria.
“But now, India has jumped the hurdle and they are out of that position, Nigeria has taken over that position that is why you hear some people calling Nigeria the dirtiest country in the world,” he said.
It will be recalled that six out of 18 local government areas in Cross River had been declared ODF.
They are Ikom, Yala, Bekwara, Obanliku, and recently Yakurr and Boki.
By Christian Njoku