The Minister of Water Resources, Mr Suleiman Adamu, has inaugurated 77,400 youth volunteers to act as hygiene ambassadors aimed at scaling up sanitation and hygiene in the country.
Adamu said the National Youth Volunteer Programme on Handwashing was Federal Government’s intervention scheme to curb the spread of COVID-19 pandemic and end open defecation practices in the country.
According to him, the engagement of 100 youth volunteers in each of the 774 local government areas will entail community sensitisation and awareness creation on safe water, sanitation and hygiene practices for three months.
The minister said aside the health emergency occasioned by the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, it had also brought about severe socioeconomic consequences globally, with great innovation in Nigeria.
He noted that the pandemic had further heightened the vulnerability of the vulnerable populations, most of whom were youths unable to find gainful employment.
These interventions, the minister said, were part of federal government’s initiative under the National Economic Sustainability Plan to rebuild the economy and stimulate job creation.
He said access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene would reduce and prevent spread of disease especially with COVID-19.
According to him, a recent study shows that regular handwashing with soap can reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 infection by 36 per cent.
“The youth volunteers under this programme will be trained on communicating and demonstrating good sanitation and hygiene practices that can help to contain the spread of corona virus and curtail the practice of open defecation in the country.
“These include effective handwashing steps at critical times, faecal oral route of disease transmission and applicable barriers, the youths will in turn be expected to engage households, community and institutional levels in passing on these messages.
“It is our hope that this pool of foot soldiers will help in ensuring the diffusion of these messages to the least person in our communities,“ the minister said.
Adamu expressed optimism that states would inaugurate their youth volunteers also, urging all tiers of government to take ownership of the programme by giving it the maximum support to succeed.
Dr Mohammed Dan-Hassan, Executive Director, FCT Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency, said the inauguration of the National Youth Volunteer Programme was laudable, saying Nigeria was currently witnessing the highest level of political will to provide safety berths to Nigerians.
According to him, taking the right message of handwashing and ending open defecation to all nooks and crannies of the country will help to improve hygiene behaviour in the country.
“This programme is a turning point in the history of the country. We can’t make progress in other sectors of the country without access to potable water and sanitation.
“The country has the greatest political will to scale up access to WASH in its history. The idea is very remarkable. Youths have the energy and the zeal to work to achieve the narrative.
“We encourage all Nigerians to build and use their toilets, 15 billion dollars can be generated in sanitation value chain in the country.
Dan-Hassan added that the significant role of the youth could not be over emphasised, commending the ministry on its efforts at producing more local governments open defecation free.
Highlight of the event was the presentation of waste bins donated by Holborn Nigeria Limited to the ministry, presentation of work tools to youth volunteers and demonstration of proper handwashing using a contact-less machine.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the programme, spearheaded by the Clean Nigeria Campaign Sectarian, is also leveraging on NOA’s Community Orientation and Mobilisation Officers for dissemination of key messages on hygiene promotion.