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WASH Is Integral To School Enrollment, Retention & Completion, Says UNICEF

By Khalid Idris Doya 

United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has observed that access to basic water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services is integral to school enrolment, attendance, retention, and completion, as well as other numerous benefits.

Consequently, access to safe and clean toilets presents the spread of diseases; access to safe toilets means children, especially girls, and women are protected from the risks of attacks and abuse if they had to go into bushes to defecate.

Officer-In-Charge/Chief of Field Office, UNICEF Nigeria, Bauchi Field Office, Dr. Clement Adams who made these remarks, noted with concern that about 48 million Nigerians still defecate in the open, mostly in the rural areas, thereby bearing severe socio-economic losses for the country.

Dr. Clement Adams at the opening of a two-day media dialogue on World Toilet Day 2023 themed “Accelerating change” to highlight the journey towards achieving SDG 6 - clean water and sanitation held in Azare, headquarters of Katagum Local Government Area Wednesday, said that Katagum is one of the right LGA in Bauchi state that are open defecation free (ODF). 

He stated, “The achievement in Katagum LGA needs to be replicated across the country. Out of 774 LGAs in the country, only 105 have been validated ODF. The availability of improved toilets in schools, public spaces, homes, and health facilities is critical to discouraging open defecation”.

“Economically incentivizing sanitation through the approach of toilet business owners, creates jobs and improves income generation while leading us to our goal to become open defecation free. As you will learn later during this event, the work of community-based structures such as the WASH committees or WASHCOMS, is integral to promoting and attaining an open defecation free status”. 

The UNICEF Chief of Field Office explained that ODF status is not an end, but a means to an end, stressing “This means we must sustain the actions which attained for us, ODF in Katagum LGA and other LGAs in Bauchi state. Because if we do not, the achievement we celebrate today may be lost”. 

Dr. Clement Adams therefore charged all relevant stakeholders including the LGA leaders, traditional and religious leaders, WASHCOMs, mother groups, school authorities and everyone who joined to make the ODF status in Katagum possible not to rest on their oars, but continue to encourage and enforce basic hygiene practices and policies not relapse nor lose this achievement.

In Bauchi state, Katagum is the eighth LGA to be validated ODF out of 20 LGAs. We still have work to do. The approaches we used across the eight LGAs must be strengthened and upscaled to ensure that we make Bauchi state ODF. The other seven LGAs are.

Adams told the media dialogue that the World Toilet Day is celebrated every year to bring attention to the undeniable importance of safe and hygienic toilets in our daily lives, especially in terms of health, education and of course, socio-economic development.

He concluded “We are about seven years away from 2030 – the global target for the SDGs. We must therefore reinvigorate our efforts if we must meet the sanitation target of SDG 6 – safe toilets and water for all by 2030”.

Speaking on how the Katagum local government area was recently certified open defecation free, the basic water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) coordinator of the LGA, Malam Saidu Muhammad Alkali, said that they have been raised community mobilization and awareness engaging community leaders stakeholders and residents was crucial to foston ownership and commitment towards the ODF initiate.

He said behaviour change campaigns were conducted to educate the community about the hazards of open defecation and the benefits of proper sanitation practices, as well as community sanitation were established to oversee the implementation of sanitation initiatives at the village level.

“Household latrine construction encourages households to construct latrines in their homes and hand washing facilities. Community sanitation facilities, public toilets and hand washing facilities were constructed in strategic locations and we also use Civil Defence and ‘Yan Banga,” he said.

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