Volunteers with sanitation experience saving lives in Nigeria

Published: 19 November 2013 14:45 CET

By David Fogden, IFRC

In Nigeria, diarrhoea kills. According to UNICEF, it leads to the deaths of more than 150,000 children in the country every year, mainly because of poor sanitation and hygiene practices. The Nigerian Red Cross Society has been working together with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to reduce sanitation related diseases, including diarrhoea, by improving access to facilities and increasing people’s knowledge of basic hygiene practices.

Unisa Salihu, 25, lives in the small village of Ozahi, Kogi state. She is a volunteer with the Nigerian Red Cross Society, who, with IFRC, has provided hygiene promotion training for five volunteers in her village. Once trained, the volunteers have gone house-to-house to pass on messages on the importance of practicing good hygiene, such as washing hands before eating and after using the toilet.

“Before people in the village used to openly defecate in the village, and there were regular outbreaks of diarrhoea, particularly amongst the children,” Salihu says. “Since we have been carrying out hygiene promotion, there have been no reported cases at all.”   

The Nigerian Red Cross Society and IFRC have also constructed seven latrines in the village, one of which is serving the local school. Teachers have also been trained on proper hygiene promotion and are passing on what they have learned to local children. A local village water and sanitation committee has also been established, which is responsible for cleaning and maintaining the latrines. The committee has been equipped with tools including wheelbarrows, shovels, hoes, cutlasses, rakes and gloves.  

“Often latrines are built but fall into disrepair because there is no one to maintain them,” says Umar Mairiga, head of programmes for the Nigerian Red Cross Society. “But since the committee has been drawn from people in the village, it will be able to ensure the proper maintenance of the facilities far into the future.”

Water and sanitation at IFRC


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