Gov. AbdulRahman AbdulRasaq of Kwara, on Monday, flagged off a decade of action against open defecation in the state to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) project.
The governor, who spoke at the inauguration of the Committee on Kwara Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (KW-WASH) in Ilorin, said that the flag-off of the campaign, tagged “Clean Kwara”, coincided with the fifth anniversary of the SDGs.
He said that the project was a key part of the goal six of the SDGs bordering on general access to safe and affordable drinking water, adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all as well as end to open defecation by 2030.
The governor, who was represented by his Deputy, Mr Kayode Alabi, said that the goal included paying special attention to the needs of women, girls and the vulnerable.
AbdulRasaq said that the campaign had become necessary due to the appalling condition of access to water and sanitation services in the state.
“For instance, a national survey published in 2018 ranked Kwara 30th among the 36 states of the federation in access to basic water and sanitation services. We were also ranked 22 in terms of access to basic water supply services.
“Going by that report, we are in the bottom three nationwide in access to sanitation services and among the states with highest prevalence of open defecation, and the poorest in the North Central zone.
“We established that more than 75 per cent of our schools have no access to potable water, while 20 per cent have disused or non-functioning water hand pump.
“A similar study by the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on SDGs on public toilets and services at our motor parks showed that 95 per cent of the latrines are dry pit, while five per cent are pour-flush.’’
AbdulRasaq, however, said that his administration had made moves to address the gap in the health sector, especially with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We saw this huge gap and that has led to the rehabilitation of several water works that had long collapsed.
“However, we are not there at all. This is why we are so passionate about Kwara under us keying into various national initiatives.
“With more proactive initiatives being undertaken to improve our state’s ranking on SDG 6.0, the urgency has prompted the need for our administration to declare a state of emergency on open defecation.
“The state of emergency was also extended to the entire WASH sector through SDG 6.0 WASH initiative in Kwara,’’ he said.
AbdulRasaq explained that the inauguration of the committee on KW-WASH was a call to action and commitment to reform the water sector.
In his remarks delivered virtually, the Minister of Water Resources, Mallam Suleiman Adamu, commended Kwara for being listed among the frontrunner states that have taken all the initiatives to launch the campaign at the state level.
This, Adamu said, was a clear demonstration of the kind of political commitment needed to reverse the appalling position of the state in open defecation practice and lack of access to basic sanitation services.
“Statistics shows Kwara as one of the highest in open defecation practice in Nigeria, at 64 per cent, while only 14 per cent of the state population has access to basic sanitation services.
“This underlines the critical situation in the Kwara. Today’s event is a clear demonstration of the political commitment needed to reverse this appalling position and turn towards a healthier society.
“Kwara is now listed among the frontrunner states that have taken all the initiatives to launch their state level campaign, as demonstrated during the national launch of the “Clean Nigeria” by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in November 2019,’’ he said.
The clean Nigeria campaign, the minister said, was aimed at mobilising high level political support, resources and the entire populace towards the renewed culture of safe sanitation.
“It is our desire to aggressively mobilise the entire country towards ending the practice of open defecation, the minister said, pledging that his ministry would provide necessary technical support for the state to record success in the campaign.
Earlier in her address, Ms Jemilat Bio-Ibrahim, the Special Adviser to Gov. AbdulRasaq on SDGs, said that the state would recommit itself to the global action to achieve sustainable development.
Bio-Ibrahim, who rolled out the roadmap for achieving the desired goal, stated that the plan would cut across the critical sectors of human development.
Mrs Arinola Lawal, the state Commissioner for Water Resources, said that the aim of the project was to provide people with access to WASH, particularly in public places as well as access to safe and potable water for household use.
Aside pledging water and sanitation services in schools, the commissioner also said that the provision of the facilities would also be prioritised for the residents of the state. (NAN)