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Monday, July 15, 2024

Nigerian government begins to take measures to combat cholera and open defecation

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The federal government says it has initiated measures to combat cholera in the country by addressing its root causes, including open defecation.

The government said it is concerned about the rapid spread of the epidemic across the country and the high morbidity and mortality it entails.

Vice President Kashim Shettima said President Bola Tinubu’s administration is committed to ending open defecation by 2025.

The Vice President spoke on Thursday when he inaugurated the Steering Committee of the Clean Nigeria: Use the Toilet Campaign, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

He said ending open defecation can be achieved by mobilizing strategic actors and leveraging technology as well as implementing innovative and sustainable solutions to boost the country’s sanitation landscape.

Mr. Shettima, who stressed the importance of hygiene, health and their impact on development and wealth, urged the committee to “align with broader government priorities and interventions in areas such as poverty reduction, education and economic growth.”

He said the recently reported cholera cases in the country should serve as enough motivation for the committee to work harder, while ordering the committee members to “work out solutions to handle wastewater management, contaminated water sources and open defecation” across the country.

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Mr. Shettima also expressed confidence that the team members “will commit to research-based approaches in our efforts to deliver on our promise of making the nation clean.”

“We are aware that achieving this goal requires a collective decision to adopt a change of behaviour and cultivate a lifestyle that prioritises proper sanitary practices, hygiene education and community involvement,” he added.

He stressed that the country’s goals and aspirations could be best achieved by leveraging available resources in the public and private sectors, especially through the conduct of innovative research.

“The public sector cannot succeed in this campaign unless we engage and encourage private sector participation and invite innovative and sustainable solutions.

“We must work together using technology for real-time monitoring, data collection and impact assessment, while recognising the role of young people and women in driving change,” she said.

In addition to its primary mandate, the Vice President charged the committee to be vigilant in its work, especially “as we develop solutions to the devastations of climate change, urbanization and population growth,” noting that “we have become ambassadors for a cause that seeks to restore the health and dignity of our people.”

The meeting, which is the fifth since the launch of the Clean Nigeria Campaign in 2019, provides a forum to review the progress made so far in the country.

Earlier, the Coordinating Minister for Health and Social Welfare, Ali Pate, recalled that in the bid to tackle the cholera epidemic, which he said is ravaging the country in 33 states, with 2,000 cases and 33 deaths, the Federal Executive Council (FEC), at its last meeting, also mandated a cabinet committee to deal with the issue.

He said: “That cabinet committee is made up of the ministries of Water, Education, Environment, Aviation and almost all the relevant ministries. Open defecation is part of the factors driving this cholera outbreak that we are seeing. But we also have a good example of a sub-national unit that is doing very well in Jigawa State, which has been declared open defecation free.

“This is a good example that sub-national units can help us address this issue. We therefore really value their leadership and are committed to supporting this effort so that we can end open defecation in Nigeria.”

Presenting the report ‘Clean Nigeria: Use the Toilet Campaign’, Minister of Water Resources and Sanitation, Joseph Utsev, said the report covers both challenges and successes since its inception in 2016 and was inaugurated and signed into law in 2019.

According to him, the campaign is a transformative initiative to eradicate open defecation in Nigeria by 2025, noting that the campaign was aimed at getting all stakeholders to come together and tackle open defecation, which currently ranks Nigeria as the second largest country practicing open defecation in the world, after India.

He said the 2018 national water hygiene and sanitation survey revealed that about 47 million Nigerians, constituting 23 percent of the population, practice open defecation.

Mr. Utsev highlighted the objectives of the campaign to include a national campaign, mobilizing support and resources at both national and sub-national levels to combat the menace and creating a pool of resource persons and spokesperson actors to mobilize people across all strata of society to imbibe the culture and self-healing as well as establish the mechanism to track progress, share knowledge and lessons.

In the report, the minister warned that open defecation has its own economic, social and health impact on the country’s national prospects, noting that a roadmap was drawn up by the previous administration in 2016 and an investment of about N959 billion would be required.

“The idea was that the money would be used to build toilets both domestically and nationally. 25,000 toilets would be built in rural areas and 50,000 in urban areas, but today things have changed and a review was necessary.

READ ALSO: Cholera: Death toll rises to 63 as 10 Nigerian states lead infection chart

“With that, there was an approval of N10.4 billion to be given annually for the implementation of the exercise and we, 48 million people, have changed our behaviour and 9.4 million toilets would be built across the 33 states and the FCT with this estimate,” the minister explained.

Mr. Utser requested the support of the Ministries of Finance and Justice for the success of the campaign.

Stanley NkwochaSenior Special Assistant to the President for Media and Communications (Office of the Vice President)*July 4, 2024

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