A civil society group in Lagos, South-west Nigeria, has frowned at the recent cancellation of the monthly environmental sanitation exercise by the Lagos State Government, calling on the authorities to, as a replacement, urgently adopt the draft state WASH (Water, Sanitation & Hygiene) Policy and roll out an effective implementation plan.
The Advocacy and Campaigns Coalition (ACC), a platform of Civil Society Networks in Lagos State working with other relevant stakeholders to reduce mortality and morbidity from diarrhea in under-5 children within the framework of the WHO/UNICEF 7-point plan for diarrhea control, expressed dismay over the reason of “present economic realities in the country” given for the cancellation by the Lagos government.
In a statement signed by the ACC coordinator, Ms. Gbemisola Akosa, the group further demands that all relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and stakeholders responsible for the review of environmental Laws of Lagos State speed up action on them and ensure the passage of the Laws before the end of the first quarter of 2017.
Additionally, the body demands that regular updates should be given to the general populace with respect to progress on the passage of the harmonised environmental Laws.
The ACC, an initiative of Save the Children, an organisation that promotes the welfare of children, stated: “It is incontestable that improvement in mortality rates from preventable diseases such as typhoid, diarrhea, cholera and malaria, etc., was because of improved standard of environmental sanitation. Thus, we believe that a well-planned, coordinated and implemented environmental sanitation policy for disease prevention and control is what Lagos State needs at this time, given the megacity status of the state.”
Frowning at the abolition of the monthly exercise, the body submits: “With due respect, this apparent attempt to promote economic benefits above clean and healthy environment is capable of undermining people centred governance being promoted by the current administration in the state. The reality is that there cannot be economic viability without a clean and healthy environment which impacts on the productivity of the people.
“We are all the more concerned that the exercise was cancelled without any stop-gap measure in place to preserve the gains of sound environmental sanitation, self-discipline and strict adherence to standard hygiene rules and practices promoted in the last 20 years by the rested environmental sanitation exercise.
“Of utmost concern is the inability of the government to muster enough political will in adopting the Lagos State WASH Policy which has been in the pipeline for several years. These portend grave consequences for public health and sustainable sanitation especially in the face of deteriorating state of public water supply and sanitation services in the state.
“It is acknowledged that hygiene practices are generally poor in the state due to inadequate access to portable water (10% or roughly 2.1 million people in Lagos have access to potable water) and sanitation services as well as moral decadence to the environment. This poor state of water and sanitation has contributed significantly to the high prevalence of preventable diseases such as diarrhea, cholera, malaria and typhoid.
“Significantly, Lagos has the second highest prevalence of diarrhea rate in South West Nigeria (7.5%), after Oyo State (9.2%), having an average diarrhea incidence of 13% or 520,000 cases per annum. These diseases also account for the rise in morbidity, mortality and absenteeism in schools and at work.”