A child sanitation champion’s impact on a community transcends her age

Akisa, a primary school student in Benue State, promotes safe water, sanitation, and hygiene in school through the Environmental Health Club.

Jennifer Ehidiamen, Nelly Ating and Terfa Tsetim
Sanitation champions
UNICEF Nigeria/2019

09 August 2019

Akisa Dorathy Onokyema, 12, is a Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) champion. Currently a primary six pupil of NKST primary School Ikpaka in Katsina-Ala, Benue state, Akisa promotes safe WASH in the school through the Environmental Health Club.

A child in class
UNICEF Nigeria/2019
Akisa in the classroom at her school

Once a week, the child sanitation champion meets with her peers to discuss the importance of safe hygiene and sanitation. She has been an active member of the NKST Environmental Health Club since it was introduced in Katsina-Ala by UNICEF in 2017.

Children running out of a classroom
UNICEF Nigeria/2019
Akisa and her classmates.
Handwashing using a Tippy Tap
UNICEF Nigeria/2019
Akisa demonstrates handwashing using a Tippy Tap.

The club members learn about good hygiene practices such as handwashing after using the toilet. Like a rippling effect, the pupils then serve as messengers who take the lessons back to their different homes and families, thereby impacting the rest of the community!

A child raises up his clean hands after handwashing
UNICEF Nigeria/2019
More than 100,000 children under 5 years of age die yearly due to diarrhoea. Ninety percent is directly attributed to unsafe water and sanitation.

As part of the safe WASH advocacy in Nigeria, peer to peer mentoring has become an integral component in educating school children on personal hygiene. NKST Primary School, Ikpaka is one of the schools leading the drive in Benue State.

Community members in Benue State
UNICEF Nigeria/2019
Schoolchildren are key advocates for good hygiene and sanitation practices in Ikpaka community, Benue State.

Last year, Akisa represented her school in an organized quiz competition and performed excellently. As news about her wins spread among the people of Mbaagban community, where she lives with her family, information about the importance of practising proper hygiene for healthier living was also shared. This is the message of hope Akisa brings to her community, as a sanitation champion.

A girl with her family
UNICEF Nigeria/2019
Akisa with her family members in Ikpaka community, Benue State.

Members of Mbaagban community recognize Akisa as a hygiene promotion champion and want their children to emulate her. Akisa's mother, Agashua Bridget, is proud of her daughter's impact in the community.

A child and her mother
UNICEF Nigeria/2019
Akisa and her mother.

"Every time I see her tell her other siblings to brush their teeth, cut nails or dry clothes outside, I feel so proud,” she said.

Mrs. Agashua recounts her experience of losing one of her children during a cholera outbreak in the community. The sad event could have been prevented, she said, if everyone in the community had been more informed about the importance of safe WASH.