The Federal Government has declared Ikom and Yala Local Government Areas (LGAs) of Cross River state open defecation free (ODF).
The declaration was made at a news conference held in Calabar on Thursday by the state Ministry of Water Resources.
Speaking at the occasion, the Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu, represented by Emmanuel Awe, a director in the ministry, commended the State Government for the feat.
According to the minister, while Nigeria made significant progress in the provision of safe water supply in the past decade which had contributed to socio-economic development, the same could not be said of sanitisation and hygiene.
“Nigeria was reported to be the country with the highest number of people practising open defecation in Africa, with over 46 million people involved.
“To this end, the Ministry of Water Resources in collaboration with United Nations Children Education Fund (UNICEF) developed the strategic document-Making Nigeria Open Defecation Free,” he said.
The minister noted that on November 8, President Muhammadu Buhari also declared a state of emergency in the Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector as well, launched the National Action Plan for the revitalisation of the sector.
“More recently, the ministry launched the Open Defecation Free Nigeria (Rural) 2025 campaign during the last National Water Resources Council meeting held in Abuja.
“These are geared to ensure that Nigeria meets the 2025 target of making the country open defecation free,” he said.
Similarly, the states’ Commissioner for Water Resources, Gabe Odu, said all the communities in Ikom and Yala had satisfied the National Open Defecation Protocol.
He thanked the Community-led Health Improvement through Sanitisation and Hygiene Promotion in Nigeria (CHISHPIN) and all the other agencies that supported the initiative.
The commissioner also urged all hands to be on deck in order to make the state the first state to be declared ODF in the country.
Earlier, the traditional rulers of Ikom and Yala LGAs thanked the government for its efforts and called for increase funding for such laudable initiatives to ensure sustainability.
“Sustainability is key to whatever we are doing; some communities operating this scheme in the states do not have boreholes and depend on streams which dry up in the dry season.
“We depend on what donors give to this state to survive and so if the state government increases its counterpart funding for projects like this, I think we will benefit more,” he said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that so far, five LGAs in the state – Obanliku, Bekwarra,Yakurr, Ikom and Yala — have been declared ODF.