2021: Ebonyi embarks on intensive campaign to end Open Defecation

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By Douglas Okoro

Abakaliki, Dec 30, 2020 Ebonyi Government says it has embarked on aggressive campaign to address environmental challenges to complement the infrastructural development of the present administration.

The state, in a bid to achieve this, on Nov 25, launched the ‘Clean Ebonyi, Use the Toilet Campaign’ saying that the government would spare no efforts in addressing environmental degradation in the state.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Ebonyi was rated highest in states that practice open defecation in the country.

In separate interviews with a cross-section of residents in Abakaliki, they said that open defecation was necessited by lack of availability of public toilets and running public water source in the state.

Dr Kelechi Okezie, an environmental activist and executive director, Neighborhood Environment Watch – Foundation (NEW-F), regretted that Ebonyi was rated highest in states where its people practice open defecation in Nigeria.

The environmentalist said that the organization was collaborating with other environment-based Civil Society Organizations to carry out aggressive campaign against open defecation.

Okezie appealed to government to build public toilets or give license to private individuals to establish public toilets in strategic places to discourage people from defecating in bushes or other open places.

“You go to our schools, markets and other public places, you will hardly see public conveniences and this has resulted to people defecating in places where they are not meant to defecate.

“Streams and other water sources are being polluted leading to outbreaks of diseases like cholera, typhoid and other water borne diseases.

“Government should declare emergency in the water sector to boost water supply, construct public toilets to create more access to good and affordable toilet facilities to the people,” Okezie said.

He applauded government for signing the Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) policy saying that the initiative was right decision taken by Gov Dave Umahi.

A resident, Mr Clement Agbo said that government should enforce all environmental laws aimed at protecting the environment to ensure its sustainability and reduce the impact of environmental degradation on man.

“People caught defecating were made to pay N10,000 during the Chief Martin Elechi administration and this discouraged people from defecating in bushes and other open places.

“House owners whose buildings are not fitted with approved toilet facilities had their buildings sealed and taken before the sanitation Court.

“Enforcement of environmental laws and policies will go a long way in curtailing open defecation and other forms of environmental degradation,” Agbo said.

Meanwhile, Mr Sunday Inyima, Commissioner for Water Resources in Ebonyi in an interview with NAN said that ‘Clean Ebonyi, use the toilet campaign’ would be vigorously pursued in 2021 to ensure that every household in Ebonyi had access to improved toilet facility.

He expressed commitment of Gov. Umahi led administration in improving the water sector to achieve a clean environment.

The commissioner said that government was collaborating with critical stakeholders in Water Sanitation and Hygiene’ (WASH) sector and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to achieve the objective.

Inyima noted that the Ebonyi House of Assembly recently passed water sanitation bill aimed to enhance management of water resources and improve access to water hygiene and sanitation.

He said that water was critical in achieving good sanitation and hygiene saying that effective implementation of the WASH policy already signed by the governor was strategic in achieving clean, healthy and sustainable environment.

He said that COVID-19 pandemic had made it more imperative to maintain clean environment and regular personal cleanliness.

According to the commissioner, open defecation is one of the practices that degrades the environment leading to diseases including diarrhoea and other water borne diseases.

He added that the campaign was targetted at completing elimination of all forms of the practice in urban and rural communities.

Inyima stressed the need for attitudinal and cultural reorientation to lift the state from among the league of states with highest rates of open defecation.

“The governor is doing so much to address challenges affecting the environment especially in the area of water sanitation and hygiene.

“He has signed the WASH policy which is a prerequisite to accessing funds devoted for the improvement of the WASH sector.

“Our state is among states with highest number of people practising open defecation and we must do everything within our powers to change the narrative,” Inyima said.

Mr Jonah Egba, Commissioner for Environment in an interview also told NAN that the Ministry was synergising with line ministries, CSOs to tackle rising environmental challenges.

He said that the state government in 2020 rolled out policies to enhance the environment.

“Anything that affects the environment negatively, will inevitably, affect man because man cannot operate outside of the environment.

“As government, we must ensure that all laws and policies on sustaining and safeguarding the environment will be religiously enforced in 2021,” Egba said.

Dr Chris Achi, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health and Mr Sunday Opoke, General Manager of EBRUWASA noted that water sector was critical in achieving good health and sanitation adding that the WASH policy in the state should be implemented.

They commended the governor for repositioning the health sector and called on government to make water available to the people in 2021 to discourage them from using unsafe water and defecating in the open.

“We must take a proactive step towards ensuring that Ebonyi is delisted from the league of states with highest number of people practising open defecation.”

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that President Muhammadu Buhari had in 2019 launched the campaign aimed at ending open defecation in Nigeria by 2025 and WASH policy was part of strategies to achieve the campaign.

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