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Eng. Ebele Ofunneamaka Okeke, CFR, the former Nigerian Head of the Civil Service, has joined forces with the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) to advocate for equity and dignity on behalf of the 2.6 billion people without a decent toilet to use and the nearly one billion without good quality drinking water close at hand.
As a new Ambassador in WSSCC’s Women Leaders for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) Initiative, Eng. Okeke will take a leading role in Nigeria, West Africa and the world as a spokesperson for what Liberian President Ellen John-Sirleaf Johnson last week called in a New York Times commentary “one of the greatest untold development challenges facing the international community”: the Sanitation crisis.
According to a recent report in The Lancet, diarrhoeal disease caused by poor sanitation is the biggest killer in Africa of children under five. Globally, it claims 5,000 lives per day. Conversely, the benefits of improved sanitation are huge: the World Health Organization has calculated that every $1 invested in sanitation brings a return of $9, mainly through time saved by not being sick.
“I have been committed to improving Sanitation and Hygiene practices in Nigeria, and through Africa, for many years now,” Eng. Okeke says. “As a WSSCC Ambassador, I have the chance to step up this work, and be a part of a world-wide group of people who share a similar vision. I believe that providing access to safe, affordable sanitation to all people is possible, and it is our responsibility to make it happen.” She joins the Honourable Maria Mutagamba, the Minster of Water in Uganda, in the growing ranks of the Women Leaders for WASH.
“Women Leaders for WASH are women who care about bringing an end to the growing global crisis in Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene, and who are particularly concerned with the disproportionate burden that this crisis places on women,” according to Jon Lane, Executive Director of WSSCC. “They act as the voice for broad constituencies, both as individual public figures, and as part of a dynamic group of women leaders. They have a shared goal of bringing about positive improvements in the lives of other women. We are honoured that Eng. Okeke has joined us.”
Women Leaders for WASH are not only concerned with the immediate impacts on women of inadequate WASH policy and services, but are also aware of the impacts that WASH have on other development issues. From economic and social development to health concerns and educational opportunities, safe water, basic sanitation and good hygiene practices are key to sustainable programmes that improve the quality of life for all people, regardless of gender.
Engr. Ebele Ofunneamaka Okeke who is a Commander of the Federal Republic of Nigeria(CFR) is a Fellow of the Nigeria Society of Engineers and was also previously the Permanent Secretary in Nigeria’s Ministry of Water Resources as well as the first female to lead the Nigerian Civil Service. She graduated from the University of Southampton, England, in 1971 with a 2nd Class B.Sc Honors in Civil Engineering, thereby becoming the first Nigerian woman to study civil engineering.