With a staggering figure of about 2 million out of the 6 million residents of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, still taking pleasure in using walkway, bushes and unconventional method for defecating, the Federal Capital Territory FCT Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency, RUWASSA has set in motion means and ways to eradicate open defecation by 2025.
The agency is not happy with this development; hence plans and efforts are on to ensure the number reduces drastically or totally those who defecate in the open because they derive pleasure in the cool breeze that open defecation gives to them.
And now, as the agency will this month mark its establishment and as part of its three years anniversary, the agency, according to its Executive Director, Eng. Mohammed Ali Dan-Hassan has reasons to commend itself for the laudable giant strides it has embarked upon in eradicating open defecation and ensuring provision of water to the rural communities in Abuja and sustaining hygiene in these areas.
Determined to end this bad attitude amongst the Abuja residents, the agency has provided more than 100 public toilets in some of the communities and most especially in the city centre.
The mission of the agency. according to Dan-Hassan, is to ensure sustainable provision and access to potable water, hygiene and sanitation facilities and services to rural and peri-urban communities in Abuja.
The fact remains that RUWASSA main source of water supply to the rural and peri-urban areas is ground water. And access to improved water supply in rural areas in FCT is estimated at about 45% and access to improved sanitation at less than 30%. Open defecation is still practised in most part of the rural communities and some areas in the urban centers.
The FCT RUWASSA boss, Dr Mohammed Dan-Hassan. said the presidential Executive Order 009 which has set 2025 as target to eradicate open defecation would be pursued with vigour and all hands-on deck to ensure the rural communities enjoyed hygienic environment.
In a bid to rid the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) of open defecation, ensure adequate supply of safe water and sanitation in rural communities of the territory, the FCT Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency (RUWASSA), he said it has stepped up effort to collaborate with stakeholders and partners to work out achievable strategies to comply with Presidential Order 009 to end open defecation.
Four hundred and forty-eight (448) communities have been triggered in Kwali Area council, one of the six area councils of FCT. Thirty (30) communities are Open Defecation Free and one hundred and twenty-two is claiming open defecation free (ODF).
We now discovered the rate of open defecation is not just in the communities, even in the cities. You see people defecating in the open; by the highway, and people just enter the gutter, some no shame, it’s not even inside the gutter, just by the side, you just squat and pollute the environment by defecating openly.
The agency carried out WASH Baseline survey on household listing and infrastructure in Gwagwalada and Kwali Area Council in partnership with UNICEF. Baseline survey on WASH facilities in Bwari Area Council in partnership with WaterAid.
Train 60 Toilet Business Owners, maison and sales Agent of sanitation financing. It also carried out monitoring visit to 306 triggered communities on ODF compliance and held ward level meetings with stakeholders across the six Area council councils on their buy in to end open defecation in FCT.
According to the amiable Dan-Hassan, water, sanitation, and hygiene, these three components are key to survival of the human being. When you have safe drinking water, you are putting away 95% of diseases away. You take care of your water; you take care of sanitation and hygiene. So that will ultimately result in good health conditions of the citizens, such that the money that would have been spent on health issues will now be diverted to other productive ventures.
He, however, said development partners, most especially UNICEF, WaterAid, Japan International Cooperation Agency, and local NGOs have been of a great assistance to the agency.
He said the agency eventually selected Kwali to be the model, to ensure it is opundification free. That project is ongoing right now. Six of those solar-powered water schemes that were constructed and completed in addition to the hand-pumped boreholes that it had then. And now the agency had four rural water schemes in each of the 17 chiefdoms making all to be 58.
For the water solar-powered, they are in Byazhin, Kubwa, Pyakasa, Gwagwa, Paiko, and Ibwa, which are spread across the six Area Councils. And this water scheme was targeted at those communities that were potentially at risk of cholera or were affected by the cholera outbreak.
The agency, not just providing the water schemes, also went into community mobilization and awareness program to sensitize the communities because it’s one thing to provide the facilities, it is another thing to maintain the facilities so that was why the chairmen of the Area Councils were invited to get involved. The agency has been trying to convince the communities to buy into these that is why it went through the traditional leaders. It has started succeeding through that aspect.
FCT RUWASSA has been using the traditional rulers, the women groups and also the area councils. At the area council however, the major challenge is having the chairman to support their staff and be part of this project.
There is even a training going on right now in Kwali on toilet business owners, trying to kind of train toilet business owners and agents in terms of facilities that you need for toilets in household or in public places, train them on the construction in the household in communities. That training is going on. And then there are RUWASSA staff; Area Council staff, and other volunteers engaged in those communities now to ensure that each household construct toilets on their own. Out of about 429 communities, about 143 are already claiming to be open to defecation free.
JICA is supporting to train artisans, local mechanics in all the six area councils, they are trained on simple maintenance of their water schemes. And at the end of it, they were given two kits, two boxes. The tools they will need to do, carry out some repairs. The agency monitors them as they are repairing some water schemes in their communities. JICA supports in the training for a week and engaged them in community-led total sanitation. This community-led total sanitation is part of the activities that you do in targeting a community or a local government to be open to defecation free.
After these projects are established, the projects are handed over to the communities to take charge and sustain it and consider it as their own project to avoid vandalization of the scheme.
Going through these laudable achievements within just three years, there is therefore need to raise the tumblers, clink the glasses and toast to an achieving agency of government. All hail FCT RUWASSA
● Abdul is Abuja based journalist.