Equal access to sanitation for the physically challenged
By Geoffrey Njoku
Sixteen year old Nafisa Salisu, whose legs were deformed by polio, deftly, manoeuvres her wheelchair into the specially designed Ventilated Improved Pit (VIP) latrine for physically challenged pupils at Bungudu Primary School. This is a novelty in these parts; it is the first time an equal access latrine has been constructed with physically challenged persons in mind.
The UNICEF-supported structure offers a concrete wheelchair ramp as well as a set of crutches and other forms of stability. In place of the traditional hole, there is an easy-to-clean seat. The door is wide enough to accomodate a wheelchair and Nafisa was able to wash her hands without difficulty.
“It is much easier now and the place is more hygienic,” said Nafisa, who plans to be a teacher in the future.
International Year of Sanitation
As the Nigerian community mobilizes for this, the International Year of Sanitation, it is feared that persons like Nafisa could be excluded from the benefits of the campaign.
Nigeria has no national policy for the disabled to have equal access to public buildings. Even the sections of the 1999 constitution that seek to protect rights to freedom and discrimination of citizens are silent on the rights of physically challenged persons. UNICEF is working to ensure that people living with disabilities, especially those in rural areas, have access to adequate sanitation.
The latrine was introduced a day after the launch of a state-level hand-washing campaign in Bungudu, a Local Government Area of Zamfara. The wife of Zamfara’s Deputy Governor, Alhaji Mukhtar Ahmad Anka, launched the campaign on the Bungudu Primary School premises.
This year, Zamfara is targeting over 972,500 people with the hand-washing campaign, which includes the expansion of sanitation and hygiene programmes and the construction of 1 million latrines. It is expected to construct nearly 130 blocks of latrines in schools, health centres and other public places.
Including all Nigerians
National estimates show that less than half of Nigeria’s 140 million people have access to improved sanitation facilities.
For Nigeria to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of reducing by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation, approximately 62 million Nigerians must be reached before 2015.
It is estimated that about 10 per cent of Nigerians are physically challenged. Without a conscious effort to improve public sanitation, not just in Bungudu, but throughout the whole country, 14 million people will be excluded from the benefits of the International Year of Sanitation.