How local worker championed campaign against open defecation in Bauchi
Secretary of WASHCOM in Sarkibai community, Aminu Hashimu
By Rita Michael
A 26-year-old Aminu Hashimu, believes that change is possible. Hashimu, the secretary of Water Sanitation and Hygiene Committee (WASHCOM ) in Sarkibai community in Bununu ward in Dass Local Government Area of Bauchi State, Northern Nigeria has always been working round the clock to stop people from defecating openly.
Hashimu’s passion and commitment in promoting higiene and sanitation in Sarkibai community with 506 population and 46 households have finally resulted in a sucees story following the declaration of Dass Local Government as Open-Free Defecation council in July 2017.
"Before now, I never believed that open defection will come to a stop in our community because I am also among the people that practiced open defecation.
"Even though, we have toilet facility in my house, I used to defecate in the open because I believed it was more comfortable for me because of fresh air that enters my body. Also the toilet facility we had in our house was not always clean because we didn't know about the hygiene of keeping our environment clean," Hashimu said.
However, WASHCOM members are community people that volunteered to promote and sensitize the people on promotion of hygiene and sanitation following sensitization by Bauchi State Rurual Water Supply and Sanitaion Agency (RUWASA) and the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) who had been trained by UNICEF on Community Led Total Sanitaion (CLTS) which is a positive approach to Sanitation and hygiene in rural areas.
Bauchi State is one of the states benefitting from the United Kingdom (UK) Department for International Development (DFID) funded Sanitation, Hygiene and Water in Nigeria (SHAWN) project.
The project is being implemented through the Bauchi State Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency (RUWASSA) and the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Units in eight Local Government Areas (LGAs) of Dass, Gamawa, Warji, Shira, Toro, Bogoro, Ganjuwa and Zaki. Recently, additional LGAs of Bauchi and Katagum were self-selected to benefit from the project, making it a total of 10 project LGAs.
The project implementation approach is Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) complemented with provision of water facilities and strict adherence to LGA wide intervention logic. All these have led to noticeable improvements in the water and sanitation situation of the participating LGAs.
Following the series of sensitization exercise carried out through CLTS, Dass Local government was the first LGS in the FGN/UNICEF intervention and second LGA in Nigeria to become Open Defecation Free (ODF) in July 2017.
Dass LGA which has a population of about 308,377 and a total of 351 communities spread across 13 wards is a local council DFID and UNICEF in partnership with Bauchi State Government effected a change through the promotion of CLTS. The LG was declared ODF when faeces could not be found in the open in all its 351 communities, institutions, public places as well as all latrines/toilets are being used and kept clean always.
Aminu Hashimu and other volunteer members of the LG use their influence to end the practice of open defaecation in Dass Local Government as local workers.
Hashimu said, "We conduct weekly environmental Sanitaion in Sarkibai and we also go from house to house to sensitize the poeple on dangers of open defecation as well as keeping their environment clean.
"I was engaged in open defaecation because I did not know the dangers it possesses to my health and my community but when I was educated by RUWASA and WASH, I took it upon myself to champion the process of putting an end to open defecation and today, it has yielded positive result by DASS LG being declared OPen Defecation Free.
"We will sustain this intervention and because of that we have instituted a fine of N500 against anyone who breaks the rule of defecating in the open or not keeping his environment clean and nobody has broken the rule so far ,” he said.
Maryam Sani Adamu, a 29-year-old housewife, and resident of Sarkibai said that the CLTS Programme has contributed immensely in the promotion of sanitation and higiene in the area.
Maryam Adamu, a mother of five said, "We now live a healthy life as our environment is always clean and all households now have toilets and latrines. As a result of these, we don't suffer from cholera and diarrhea any longer as it used to be before this intervention".
According to WASH report, before the intervention of SHAWN Project in Dass LG, the total number of latrines in the council were 3,965 but after the intervention, the number of latrines increased to 36,810.
The community leader of Sarkibai in Bununu ward, Alhaji Usman Rabo, who said the community was created 46 years ago, attributed the problem of ODF in the council before the intervention of SHAWN to illiteracy and lack of awareness.
Rabo, who has ruled the community for eight years, said, "defecating in the open was a problem of lack of awareness and illiteracy. Even some people that have toilet in their houses still defecate in the open because they do not know the danger it possess to their health and their family but with sensitization and awareness in churches, mosques, schools, house to house and public places we were able to effect the change.
"Before this intervention, our people were dying including women and children due to cholera, diarrhea and other related diseases as they were always rushed to hospital, thereby stretching the hospital faculty but we thank Allah that we don't suffer from any of this illness anymore,” he said.
According to WASH report, before the intervention of SHAWN project in Dass LG, open defecation was a norm, defecating in a latrine was considered a taboo, people drink water from ponds and streams where they share with animals while hospitals were full to capacity with cases of water and sanitation-related diseases.
The SHAWN project implementation of CLTS in Dass LG was complemented with provision of water facilities and strict adherence to LGA wide intervention logic and all these led to noticeable improvements in the water and sanitation situation of the people in the council.
The religious leader of Sarkibai, Alhaji Ishaq Ismail, attributed lack of trust to some of the challenges faced while sensitizing the people on promotion of hygiene and sanitation in the area.
He said, "When we started the campaign of hygiene and Sanitation promotion, our people thought government gave us money to embark on such sensitization but when we educated them further on the dangers such practice pose to their health, they listened to us. We also use religious aspect to effect the change by informing them that our religion is against defecating in the open.
"Before the SHAWN intervention, we were using well and stream water which are being polluted by faeces, which contributed to water and sanitation diseases in the community but today we are free from all these diseases," said Ismail.
"In Dass LG hand washing with soap and ash using tippy tap which is a local hand wash basin introduced by WASH for washing of hands is in every household, schools, public places among others,” he said.
The tippy tap is a simple device for hand washing with running water (improved version). A container of 5 liter with a small hole near the cap is filled with water and tipped with a stick and rope tied trough a hole in the cap. As only the soap is touched with the hands, the device is very hygienic.
Alhaji Ismail thereby commended the state government, DFID and UNICEF for the intervention of SHAWN project ,which, according to him, has gone a long way to save the lives of the people thereby making them to keep their environment clean and stop open defecation.
In his contribution, the Permanent Secretary, Bauchi State Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency, (RUWASA), Garba Magaji Babaji, said that the SHAWN project built the capacity of stakeholders at the state and local government levels and adopted the local government wide approach in the community led Total Sanitation Implementation, CLTS.
He said that all the communities committed to construct and use latrines not only at household level, but in market, motor parks and places of worship while the project in collaboration with the state government provided facilities in schools and health centres.