THE Federal Government is set to launch a National Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) fund to address the challenges of poor hygiene in the country.

The Minister of Water Resources, Mr Suleiman Adamu, disclosed this at the opening of the 6th National Conference on Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) Conference in Bauchi on Tuesday.

Adamu, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary, Dr Musa Ibrahim, said the ministry was also working to inaugurate a presidential campaign to eliminate open defecation practice in the country.

He noted that over the years, significant progress had been achieved in the provision of safe water supply while the sanitation component was still on the decline.

The minister said that optimal benefit from the provision of water supply could be obtained without the complementing efforts of promotion of sanitation and hygiene practices.

“The ministry is proposing to set up a National WASH Fund slated to take-off by the middle of the year which interested states can access in improving their institutions and infrastructures.

“Plans are also on to launch a national campaign to eliminate open defecation; all these efforts are intended to accelerate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals on water and sanitation by 2030.”

Adamu said it was the Federal Government’s desire to see that every state government demonstrated the same political will towards improving the WASH situation of their citizens.

He said doing this lead to reduction in water and sanitation morbidity and mortality, especially among under-five children, and the overall goal of improving the well-being of the society.

The minister commended the National Task Group on Sanitation and other development partners for their role in scaling up efforts to WASH, adding that this was evident with the success recorded in Bauchi and Cross River Local Government Areas.

Also speaking, Bauchi State Deputy Gov. Nuhu Gidado, applauded the Federal Government`s efforts in the fight against open defecation and promoting hygiene practices.

He said that the state government was working with development partners to evolve innovative approaches to sustain progress recorded in the water and sanitation sector.

Gidado said these efforts were obvious with the provision of Solar-powered lights to all boarding schools.

He said that ensuring the availability of a functional sanitation facility, would aid hygiene promotion and overall disease prevention.

He expressed the hope that Warji Local Government would soon be declared open defecation-free with the progress it had recorded in partnership with the state rural water supply and sanitation agency and development partners.

I a goodwill message, Mr Nanpet Chuktu, said that ending open defecation was a collective effort, adding that saying that all tiers of government must collaborate to make this a reality.

He said that the impact of poor sanitation was evident, with frequent hospitalisation from preventable water-borne diseases such as cholera, diarrhoea and typhoid.

Chuktu said with the progress recorded in Dass Local Government Area of Bauchi, it was obvious that Nigeria could meet its National Roadmap for ending open defecation by 2025 and the SDGs goal six with sustained commitment.

Mr Peter Ojonuba, an official from the Federal Ministry of Education, urged all stakeholders to support schools by providing WASH facilities to reduce disease prevention and promote school attendance.

He said the place of WASH in the country could be overemphasised as it impacts on health, education and development.

According to him, CLTS is an effective approach to promote sanitation and hygiene practices.

Ojonuba added that the National School Health Policy emphasised that creating a healthy and safe learning environment required adequate access to safe water supply, sanitation and hygiene facilities.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the ojbective of the CLTS conference is to sensitise relevant stakeholders on progress made and what steps could be taken to improve sanitation and hygiene in the country. (NAN)