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Nigerian Communities Hit High Note in Hygiene and Sanitation

Working with communities in Nigeria to promote hygiene and slash disease rates
Community members
Gabai community members work on an action plan. Photo: B. Holleng, ACF-Nigeria

At Action Against Hunger, we’re all about promoting good nutrition and saving those who are severely malnourished. It’s well-known that having access to clean water and sanitation facilities, and knowing the ins and outs of good hygiene, are all important factors in fighting malnutrition. Without these things in place, disease can run rampant.

A Prevalent Problem

One of the most common triggers for the spreading of disease is the practice of going to the bathroom outdoors. (We technical people call this practice “Open Defecation,” or OD.) Where there’s OD, there’s disease. Waste gets into the water and the soil, and then the food, too.

OD can also cause communities to suffer a lot of economic loss, what with people suffering from illnesses and malnutrition and having high medical costs. It causes many adults to miss work and many kids to miss school. This is especially true for boys and girls under age five, whose immunity levels are lower.

Community-Led Solutions

So we’re working to completely eliminate OD. We’re using what we call the “Community-led Total Sanitation” approach—mobilizing communities to conduct their own appraisal and analysis of OD and take action to eradicate it. Here in Nigeria, my team and I trained 24 facilitators who have activated this approach in 30 communities so far.

To complement the community-led approach, we’re investing more than $200,000 USD to construct solar-powered boreholes, latrines, bathing shelters, underground reservoirs for health centers treating nutrition patients, and more. We’re also partnering with Nigeria’s Rural Water and Sanitation Agency to rehabilitate broken down water points, with the hope of ensuring rural communities have sustainable access to clean water.

“When we were enlightened about the effects of OD, we realized that some of the ailments ravaging us and our children are caused by it, and that these ailments are totally avoidable.”

—Alhaji Madu Gabai, Community Leader, Gabai, Nigeria

In a village called Gabai, the responses were fantastic with about 90% of households willing to construct their own latrines within a month. We’re coordinating with the local works department to train community members on constructing pit latrines. And we’re helping about 500 households with special needs—especially the elderly or those with malnourished children—to pay for materials and construct their latrines.

I’m proud to work with Action Against Hunger, and to see how our efforts benefit so many people here in Nigeria and around the world every day. We promise to keep up our work to eliminate OD and make sure the people we help always have access to clean water, sanitation practices, and good hygiene.

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Why is it important to have members of a community create change for themselves? Have you ever affected change in a community group of your own?

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About Bwakat Holleng

Bwakat is Action Against Hunger’s WaSH Program Manager in Nigeria, overseeing the country’s water, sanitation, and hygiene initiatives.

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