In Abuja this week, the Nigerian Society of Engineers honoured two women who are committed to improving sanitation and hygiene in their country – the Honourable Minister for Water Resources, Mrs Sarah Reng Ochekpe, and WSSCC’s own WASH Ambassador, Eng. Ebele Okeke. The awards were given at a ceremony attended by leading figures from a range of sectors, both government and NGO, and guests of honour included Eng. M.B. Shehu, President of the Nigerian Society of Engineers. Amanda Marlin, WSSCC Programme Manager for Advocacy and Communications, was the guest speaker. Other award recipients included prominent members and supporters of the Abuja Chapter of the Society of Engineers, and secondary school students who had excelled in their studies. One of the main aims of the Chapter is to encourage young women to follow engineering as a profession. It is hoped that these emerging leaders will contribute to improving sanitation in their country, following in the footsteps of the Honourable Minister and Eng. Okeke.
Poor sanitation costs Nigeria 455 billion Naira each year, equivalent to US$3 billion, according to a desk study carried out by the Water and Sanitation Program (WSP). This sum is the equivalent of US$20 per person in Nigeria per year or 1.3% of the national GDP.
Yet much is being done to improve the situation. Key members of the Nigerian Federal Government are on record as showing their support. At the highest level, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, convened a Presidential Summit on WASH earlier this year, fulfilling a commitment that had been made at the Sanitation and Water for All High Level Meeting at the World Bank in Washington D.C. in April 2012.
The Honourable Minister for Water Resources, Mrs Sarah Reng Ochekpe, met with WSSCC Executive Director, Chris Williams, and other members of the WSSCC management team in Geneva in February this year. She has expressed her personal commitment to efforts to improving water supply, sanitation and hygiene – WASH – in Nigiera, including the Global Sanitation Fund programme which is operating in two states, Cross River and Benue.
Eng. Ebele Okeke, the WSSCC WASH Ambassador, is retired head of the civil service in Nigeria and uses her considerable influence and experience to help promote WASH throughout the country. She is also contributing at the international level, serving on the Steering Committee of the Sanitation and Water for All partnership.
Another important contributor to improving WASH is the WSSCC National Coordinator for Nigeria, Mrs Priscilla Achakpa. Well connected with the NGO community in Nigeria, and in close contact with the government, Mrs Achakpa plays a key role in ensuring that WSSCC’s engagement in Nigeria is strategic and effective.
Nigerian leaders acknowledge that their country is one of the many in Africa that is unlikely to meet the Millennium Development Goal target for sanitation. 70 million Nigerians use unsanitary or shared latrines. 32 million have no latrine at all and defecate in the open. Yet rather than give up the fight, they are redoubling their efforts, focusing in the first instance on an end to open defecation. They also support inclusion of WASH as a priority in the post-2015 development agenda, and WSSCC looks forward to working with them on this important issue in the coming months and years.
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