Cross River State governor, Prof. Ben Ayade, Tuesday, reaffirmed his administration's commitment to the Water Supply Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programme, just as he also made a commitment to ensuring that the state becomes the first state in Nigeria to attain the Open Defecation Free status.
Governor Ayade made the commitment at the Executive Council Chamber, Government House, Calabar, when he received in audience,
a delegation of funding agencies led by the Chief of UNICEF Field Office, Enugu, Dr Ibrahim Khalil Conteh.
Cross River is already the leading state in sub-sharan Africa in the elimination of open defecation, with five of its local government areas having been declared Open Defecation Free by the United Nations.
Ayade who enumerated the benefits of portable water, sanitation and hygiene in Africa, said: "We gave a commitment on a global stage "Mandela 100", where Cross River State made a commitment that we will provide the sum of three million dollars annually for the next five years, in support of the WASH ( Water Supply Sanitation and Hygiene) programme. That commitment was audacious, it was driven by a very strong philosophy because we know the relevance of water. Water is life, and therefore if you can fix water you have fixed life. If you fix water you have fixed health, if you fix health you have fixed productivity, if you fix productivity you have fixed the economy. And I'm making again another good commitment that we will be the first state in Nigeria that will have 100 percent Open Defecation Free status. It's a commitment that I am giving now, and I will uphold it with every fibre of my being."
Ayade further stressed that "in making this commitment, I am conscious of the financial implication. It is against that arrogance of faith that we have signed and have
made available the sum of 500 million naira and also, a sum of 200 million naira was set aside for RUWASA as a commitment to the WASH programme. So, approximately two million dollars out of three million dollars has been committed in line with our declaration."
While commending UNICEF for the various successes achieved so far in the area of water sanitation, Governor Ayade further disclosed that eighty percent of diseases in Africa are water related.
"Let me thank you for all the various successes you have achieved in this water, sanitation and hygiene sector. 80 percent of diseases in Africa are water related. Of these diseases, the greatest and the most implicated source of disease are as a result of indiscriminate defecation in and around the neighbourhood. This is accelerated whenever there is a massive rainfall which leads to erosion, taking all of these faeces to the nearby water source. Sadly, the African institution is so bad that at the head stream is a source of defecation and at the down stream is a source of drinking water. This is the characteristic story of most of the African settlements. And therefore, the choice of UNICEF, World Bank and all the funding agencies focusing on water and sanitation is a critical issue in Africa, it is upright, it is obvious, it is necessary, it is a life saving notion."
The governor who urged the chief of UNICEF Field Office, Enugu, not to wind up its operations however, appealed for an extension to ensure that every local government area in the state benefits from the programme and attains the Open Defecation Free status.
Earlier, the Chief of UNICEF Field Office, Enugu, Dr Ibrahim Khalil Conteh, congratulated the state for
attaining Open Defecation Free status in five of its 18 local government areas.
He said the state was a model for the programme, emphasizing that Cross River was on the path to becoming the first state in sub-Saharan Africa to have all its local government areas declared Open Defecation Free.
He therefore, requested the state government's support in sustaining the feats that have been achieved so far.
"You may be aware that UNICEF has been working with the EU on water and sanitation sector reform programme which started way back in 2006. Since then, there has been a global outcry on the supply of water, but Nigeria has stood out strongly. As we are going to be wrapping up this sector reform programme, we believe that we still have a lot of opportunity to continue supporting the programme, because the gaps are still there in a lot of communities."
According to the UNICEF representative, "On the reform programme, we believe we have to join hands together in making a framework so that the gains we have already made will continue bearing fruits.”
Other representative of funding agencies on the courtesy call on Ayade included members of the United Purpose, a non governmental agency responsible for advocacy on Open Defecation Free status