The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Thursday called for collaboration between media and government to ensure improved access to water and sanitation by the populace.
Mr Geoffrey Njoku, UNICEF Chief Communication Officer, Abuja Office, made the call at a media dialogue on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in Uyo.
The forum was organised by UNICEF in collaboration with the Child Rights Information Bureau of Akwa Ibom state’s Ministry of Information and Culture.
WASH is a European Union-funded project implemented by UNICEF in five states in the Niger Delta.
The states are Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta and Edo.
Njoku, who identified water as “life and key to child survival’’, described the media as agents of change.
He said that through partnership and effective reportage on WASH, the media would be able to hold government accountable to its electioneering promises.
These, according to him, include the welfare of the populace with regard to access to potable water and toilet facilities; these are part of the rights of the populace.
Njoku said that it was the responsibility of government to provide good water supply, among other amenities, for its populace.
He said that the dialogue was organised to chart a course for improved water situation, “understand the link between water and child survival, create visibility for water situation and interventions in the Niger Delta and the country’’.
According to him, it is also aimed at understanding UNICEF and EU roles and efforts in WASH in Nigeria.
The UNICEF officer urged the media to ensure effective reportage of challenges associated with poor access to water and sanitation, adding that such reports would influence government at all levels to expedite actions in that direction.
Mrs Martha Hokonya, UNICEF WASH Specialist in Rivers, identified lack of access to WASH as contributing to more than half of global diarrhoea cases, being the second leading causes of under-five morbidity and mortality.
Hokonya said that access to WASH “improves health status, productivity, promotes quality family time and afford women more time for relaxation and cater for their children’’.
According to her, WASH or access to water promotes good hygiene and reduces hurdles in the family with regard to timeliness in a household core.
“It also promotes good hygiene for the home and also for women in menstrual hygiene management, reduces poverty and also empowers communities to depend on themselves.
“It empowers communities to depend on themselves and as well bring communities together, reducing conflict and agitation.
“It improves or generates productivity for the government because if an outbreak erupts, it means the government will channel a lot of resources toward health centres to combat it.
“But, with WASH, such money will be used judiciously for national development,” Hokonya said.