Breakthrough for Obanliku, Nigeria: over 17,000 people now living in open defecation free environments

Date: 9th December 2015

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Caption: Mrs. Yemisi Elisabeth Akpa, Federal Ministry of Water Resources. Credit: Jonas Holm Klange/Concern Universal Nigeria

Caption: Traditional dance from Busi Ward, Obanliku LGA. Credit: Jonas Holm Klange/Concern Universal Nigeria

Caption: Traditional dance from Busi Ward, Obanliku LGA. Credit: Jonas Holm Klange/Concern Universal Nigeria

Caption: Paramount Ruler of Obanliku presenting village chief with ODF certificate. Credit: Jonas Holm Klange/Concern Universal Nigeria

Caption: Paramount Ruler of Obanliku presenting village chief with ODF certificate. Credit: Jonas Holm Klange/Concern Universal Nigeria

Caption: Paramount Ruler of Obanliku presenting village chief with ODF certificate. Credit: Jonas Holm Klange/Concern Universal Nigeria

Caption: Red cap chiefs from Obanliku. Credit: Jonas Holm Klange/Concern Universal Nigeria

“Today is a glorious day. I’m so happy! From nowhere ODF has come to stay in Obanliku.”

These are the words of Robert Kanung, a sanitation champion in the Obanliku Local Government Area (LGA) in Nigeria’s Cross River State, which recently celebrated 128 of its communities becoming open defecation free (ODF). This equates to at least 17,140 people in Obanliku now living in ODF environments. The communities were certified as ODF by the State Task Group on Sanitation according to national criteria in early November this year.

The achievement was recognized in a ceremony in Sankwala, Obanliku’s headquarters, on World Toilet Day, with each community represented by a Chief and three Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Committee (WASHCOM) members. Representatives were presented with certificates in the presence of officials from the local, state, and federal government levels. An additional 68 communities have claimed to be ODF and are currently undergoing verification visits by the Local Task Group on Sanitation, which is made up government and non-government sanitation champions at the LGA level. The entire LGA is on track to becoming ODF in a year.

Obanliku’s achievement has been supported by the Rural Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion in Nigeria (RUSHPIN) programme, an initiative of the Government of Nigeria funded by WSSCC’s Global Sanitation Fund (GSF). The GSF Executing Agency in Nigeria is Concern Universal.

Celebrating success and looking ahead

Yemisi Elisabeth Akpa, representing the Federal Ministry of Water Resources, expressed her hopes following Obanliku’s achievement, saying: “In the nearest future, maybe in less than one year, we’ll be able to achieve the entire Obanliku being defecation free. And at that point I’m sure the President himself will hear the story, and everyone will come around to rejoice with you. If you can achieve that as a LGA, then I think we can achieve that as a state, and we equally can achieve that as a nation.”

RUSHPIN considers Obanliku as one of the best performing LGAs supported by the community-led total sanitation (CLTS) approach in Nigeria. Obanliku’s achievement is the result of a series of joint efforts by multiple actors and strong support from the Paramount Ruler of Obanliku, His Royal Majesty Cyprien Ashang, who has been actively engaged from the start. This has secured buy-in from local chiefs who have supported the community engagement work of ‘natural leaders’, or leaders that emerge from local communities during CLTS activities. When the 128 ODF communities were presented with their certificates by the Paramount Ruler, he used the opportunity to emphasize his commitment to seeing, and keeping, all of Obanliku ODF:

“Don’t get good and get bad again –o! I’ll hold my village head and my clan heads responsible if you get bad. I will drop by your villages, I’ll be going through you backyards, and if I find anything bad, I will not report you to Calabar [capital of Cross River State where the GSF Executing Agency is located], I will call you to my own office. So, be very careful! Today you have been certified as a good person or a good community. But remember that someone is watching you. And who is that? The Paramount Ruler!”

The power of collaboration

Another aspect that has been crucial to Obanliku’s achievement has been the combination of local water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) Clinics and continual follow-up visits to communities by the Local Task Group on Sanitation, tailored to community and household needs. WASH Clinics are gatherings where political, traditional, and natural leaders from triggered communities come together with local government officials and GSF Executing Agency staff to review progress towards achieving ODF status, learn and share from high-performing communities, and plan support for communities that are lagging behind. Additionally, local WASHCOMs have been formed in communities that have shown progress towards ending open defecation. WASHCOM members have been trained to assist and advise other community members in the construction of latrines and improvements in sanitation and hygiene, playing a key role in leading Obanliku communities to ODF status.

Tangible outcomes beyond sanitation

The results of improved sanitation and hygiene practices in Obanliku are already showing. Robert Kanung, a natural leader from Busi Ward, gave the following testimonial:

“Today is a glorious day. I’m so happy! From nowhere ODF has come to stay in Obanliku, it has come to stay in Busi. Before this programme came, irrespective of our level of education, we were eating our shit in ignorance; we were drinking our shit in ignorance. We spent plenty money for hospital. Just two weeks ago I did an assessment; I did research into two clinics in my ward. I asked the officers there to give me the records of diarrhoea cases they had there in 2014 and then the records for 2015. Last year, before this programme started, they had 48 cases which they treated, and I asked about the kind of treatment they used and drugs they gave. That whole community alone spent 117,000 Naira in 2014. But this year they had just seven cases, and the whole money they spent was just 12,000 Naira. All of the money that was spent that time, you can see it went back to maybe paying children’s school fees, maybe changing our diet as well and changing one or two things in the house. This is a programme to be handled with all seriousness. Wherever it touches, people should queue in immediately because there are a lot of advantages. They find good health, fresh good air, even crops in the back yard. They should make sure to join the wagon.”

About the RUSHPIN programme

Launched in October 2012, the GSF-funded and government-led RUSHPIN programme aims to help two million people in rural communities improve their sanitation and hygiene practices. To date, the programme has helped more than 156,000 people create the conditions to live in ODF environments.

In June 2014, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the Government of Nigeria, the Cross River and Benue State Governments and WSSCC to match GSF’s funds and double the number of LGAs covered by RUSHPIN. In September this year, Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom re-affirmed his state’s commitment to provide counterpart funding, announcing that funds would be released as soon as the state’s budget is approved.

Read more about RUSHPIN

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