AkwaIbom Leads In Open Defections- CSOs, USAID Warns Of Impending Epidemic
A coalition of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) led by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the African Human Development Centre (AHDC), have expressed the fear that open defecation could trigger serious health challenges amongst a large swathe of the about 7.2 million population of Akwa Ibom State. They noted that out of the 31 Local Government Areas, only one (Nsit Atai) has been certified and given Open Defecation Free (ODF) status.
Conferees at a-day symposium held at the Emerald Event Centre in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom state capital, who x-rayed the challenges hampering effective implementation of the Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) policy, blamed poor funding of the sector, borne out of Governor Udom Emmanuel’s inability to append his signature to the Water Resources Bill passed by the House of Assembly since July 19, 2022.Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in – charge of AHDC, Prof Gabriel Umoh, who doubles as the Executive Director, IbomWASH, in a communique at the end of the conference, lamented poor funding and inadequate attention paid to sanitation programmes in the state, noting that the population lives in clear and present danger of being attacked by an epidemic. He noted the abysmal yearly percentages of budgetary allocations for WASH to include 6.06 in 2019, 3.83 in 2020 and 3.11 in 2021, lamenting that “in most cases, such cash had not been released for the implementation of the WASH policy in the state.”
He said: “In Akwa Ibom State, available data indicate that the greater percentage of the population practicing open defecation increased from 4 to 11 per cent between 2019 and 2021. People are still defecating into gutters, water bodies and bushes in the coastal and rural communities, while the number of people with poor hygiene has also increased from 11 to 17 per cent within the period under review.“77 per cent of the world drink water that is contaminated with only 47 per cent having access to basic water services. Only 9 per cent of urban dwellers accessed safely managed water, while access to water and sanitation in schools is 12 per cent. Sanitation and water issues remain at 0.4 per cent in hospitals and 7 per cent in public places in the state.”
And, with only Nsit Atai, amongst the 31 LGAs certified and declared free of open defecation, Umoh, charged the government, Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to collaborate with non-state actors, to holistically drive the process towards giving the entire state the clean bill in order to safeguard the population from the malaise of water-borne diseases. However, the Acting General Manager, Akwa Ibom Rural Water and Sanitation (AK-RUWATSAN), Mr Saviour Udo, said the government has been intervening to improve WASH policy in the state with provisions of toilet facilities and training of sanitation officials towards addressing the prevailing challenges in the sector.