By Chioma Umeha
Nigeria can reduce outbreak of diarrhea and other diseases associated with contaminated water by dedicating one per cent of the national budget to rural water supply, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has said.
The United Nations(UN) agency for children further tasked governments across the Niger Delta states to invest consciously in the provision of safe water supply and sanitation for its rural populace.
The provision of such basic social amenity, according to UNICEF would encourage handwashing and other hygienic practices among school-age children and rural populace.
The international agency stated this at a ‘WASH’ media meeting by the Federal Ministry of Information in collaboration with UNICEF in Uyo the Akwa Ibom State capital on Tuesday, noting that the chemical contaminations resulting from oil and gas exploration in the Niger Delta region has made it necessary for efforts to be made to ensure safe and constantly checked water for human consumption.
Mr. Moustapha Niang, a ‘WASH specialist,’ in his presentation, ‘Water, supply and quality in the Niger Delta’, emphasized on the need for proper orientation of the rural populace to adopt attitude change and embrace water safe plan, from water source, storage to point of use.
He urged government at all levels to ensure provision of public toilet in public facilities as a means to discourage open defecation and consequences associated with it.
Niang also recommended constant monitoring of water quality to detect contamination, while encouraging the establishment of a water sanitation committee in all communities across the region,.
“Prioritize the potential hazards and mitigate such hazards through the entire water chain to ensure that water reaching the consumer is safe and acceptable. Develop their community plan. Avoid for citing potable water source around nearby latrines and areas fertilized for agricultural purposes,” he said
Martha Hokonya, also a WASH specialist, in her presentation – ‘Why invest in water supply’ said such investment in addition to job creation, reduces diseases and mortality rate, improves productivity and also provides time for women to engage in other activities like child care and others activities which brings women together.
Hokonya said as an area prone to youth restiveness, the essence of bringing the wash programme to the Niger Delta region was to address one of the agitations of the region, reduce conflicts and agitation and promote good hygiene.
While reporting that about 206,954 additional people have been reached with the WASH programme as against the targeted 543,000, she used the occasion to applaud some Niger Delta states which have lived upto their counterpart fundings arrangement, but however appealed to states yet to do so to step up to enable UNICEF do more.
Addressing the meeting, Nse Edem, the Permanent Secretary, Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Political, Legislative Affairs and Water Resources, said that the State is committed to the provision of safe water for the people of the state and is ready to partner UNICEF.