In an effort to leverage technology as a tool for development, Media for Community Change, a non-governmental organization based in Abuja, Nigeria is partnering with US-based NGO, BLI Global to launch Data4WASH on Thursday, August 27, 2020. The web-based interactive online platform has been designed for open source use and is designed to highlight areas in need of water improvement facilities while showcasing areas that have achieved improved wastewater treatment practices.
The platform will aggregate verified data generated and mapped with GPS coordinates to create a WASH map used to make a case for driving investment into the design and installation of proper WASH facilities in communities experiencing water poverty across the world.
Speaking ahead of the launch, the CEO, Jimoh Oluwatobi Segun described the platform as the one that would highlight areas in need of water improvement facilities while showcasing areas that have achieved improved wastewater treatment practices.
The purpose of the platform is to identify through generated community-driven data, areas of water stress, and poor sanitation in developing countries with Nigeria as a pilot. These will be juxtaposed in an interactive map with areas in developed countries practicing proper water and sanitation to serve as best practices. Our objective is to raise investment into developing proper water and waste treatment facilities and sanitation facilities in the rural communities/cities in developing countries as submitted through verifiable data by community members.
Explaining what inspired the Data4WASH portal, Maria Auma Horne, Co-founder and CEO BLI Global said that the platform will be a great way to drive financial and technical support to communities in Nigeria and gradually other communities in developing countries that are in dire need of improved sanitation facilities and access to clean and safe drinking water. She also commended the University of Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria for their commitment to engaging their final year students of the Department of Statistics in the data collection process. This project also offers students a continuous opportunity to practically interpret data and harness technology to improve development.
Expected at the virtual launch of the Data4WASH portal include Talia Fried, the Director, Global Policy & Government Affairs of Global Citizen who is expected to share how Global Citizen is engaging in the WASH sector; Emmanuel Iorkumbor, the Monitoring and Evaluation Officer of WaterAid Nigeria will share a few words during the launch to give insight into WaterAid’s work in the WASH sector and why it is vital in this trying time; Kassim Gawusu-Toure, the Executive Coordinator of African Youth Initiative on Climate Change – one of Africa’s largest youth coalition on Climate Change also applauded the innovation and pledge to support by sharing with her over 5000 members.
Seyifunmi Adebote, a young environmental leader in Nigeria will be speaking through the UN Youth Envoy’s Instagram account as part of a panel on a special Instagram Live on Friday, August 21st between 06.00 pm-06:45 pm WAT. This is part of activities to set the stage for #Youth4ClimateLive Episode 3: Driving Youth Action.
Other youth speakers on the panel include India’s Environmentalist and Wildlife filmmaker, Malaika Vaz and Dominican Republic’s Climate and Youth Activist, Claudia Taboada. The IG Live session will be hosted by Ahmed Badr on Connect4Climate’s channel in partnership with the office of the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth as part of the #31DaysOfYOUth campaign and the #Youth4ClimateLive Series.
As a run-up to Pre-COP26 in Milan, Italy and the COP26 which will now hold in Glasgow, the United Kingdom from Monday, 1 November 2021 to Friday, 12 November 2021, the Youth4ClimateLive Series is hosted by the Italian Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea, in collaboration with Connect4Climate – World Bank Group and the Office of the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth.
Seyifunmi’s innovative approach to climate education through his widely-listened-to Climate Talk Podcast has earned him this spot on Friday’s Instagram Live. He is expected to address a global audience, discussing “What Meaningful Youth Engagement means”, and highlighting effective climate-focused initiatives and opportunities in Nigeria and internationally.
The importation of COVID-19 reiterated the need for nations to focus and invest more in the health sector. The use of soap and clean water was introduced as part of the preventive measures to stem the spread of the virus but it obviously alienates those who still struggle to access clean water for their daily needs.
About 60 million Nigerians are unable to get clean water supply services and 150 million people do not have basic handwashing facilities with soap and water, according to WASH National Outcome Routine Mapping (WASH-NORM) in a 2018 survey.
Eziama community situated in Nkanu East Local Government Area of Enugu state is at the other end of the divide because clean water for them was a luxury before the global pandemic and it still is, making them joggle between water related diseases and the virus.
The community was brought to limelight following tweets from Daniel Ugwu, an Environment expert in February 2020 when a female colleague informed him that the residents have never had access to clean water since the existence of Enugu state in 1991.
Stupefied, Ugwu decided to embark on a journey to get firsthand information with the aim of finding either a temporal or long-lasting solution.
“It (Eziama) has existed for as long as Enugu state has been existing. I got to know about them through a colleague. She is married to a community that is close to Eziama Community. She has had some projects she did with the young people there. That was the way she was able to identify the challenges they face with respect to water. When she told me about the community, she wanted us to take up a campaign so the government’s attention can be brought to the plight of the community.
“Initially, I didn’t believe such a community actually existed. I asked her to get me some pictures. She sent it to me. I tweeted about it. Some people who I believe may be close to the government started attacking that the picture is fake and people should disregard it. I challenged them to also produce another picture to counter the narrative. So I felt I should go to the community myself and not rely on third-party information”, Ugwu told MFCC.
Idodo River serves as the only source of water for bathing, washing, cooking and drinking for Eziama, six other communities, 12 surrounding villages and cattle brought by herdsmen.
Uwgu said: “In that river, they bathe, wash and process their fufu (a local food made from cassava). When we interviewed the traditional leader, he said even some herdsmen bring their cattle to the river. The cattle will drink and urinate there too. Some people flush their toilet and it moves to the river”.
Eziama women, children worst hit by water crisis
Culturally mandated to carry out domestic duties, women, and children are mostly affected as they walk miles to get water asides being vulnerable to diseases from dirty water.
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that 6,000 children die daily from water related diseases while women and girls across the world collectively spend 200 million hours everyday collecting water.
Similarly, women and children residing in Eziama Community are not exempted.
“The issues the women face is that the river serves 12 villages and some of those villages are very far from the river so these women have to travel a very long distance to access the water. That is a whole lot of difficulty.
“We also noticed that the elderly women in the community, those of them who walk that long-distance, will now have to resort to young men using bikes to fetch the water. A gallon of water- 25 liters goes between N50 to N100 depending on where they live.
“When you go to the primary healthcare center, you see the women and the children who are the most impacted by this because the women are the ones who culturally go to fetch water to carry out domestic duties”, Ugwu said.
Typhoid, Diarrhea rampant
Out of 10 health cases in the community, six to seven of them are related to typhoid. During the dry season, diarrhea is more rampant.
These were some of the findings from Temple Oraeki, Hope Spring Water’s Country Representative in Nigeria, when he visited the community with his team after Ugwu’s tweet.
“After we got the information, we went on a preliminary visit, my team members and I. On the first visit, I interviewed their nurse. There is only one community health centre which they just opened last year. Prior to that, they never had one. She pointed out that cases of water-related diseases are very common with the community members.
“She said out of 10 cases she gets every day, six to seven of them are typhoid cases. She also pointed out that cases of diarrhea exist within the community. She was quite specific that during December and January, that is when the children have cases of diarrhea. What I found out was that from December- January, it is usually not the rainy season. The volume of the river goes down that period. This is what I figured out.
“She said she tells them that their disease is caused by unclean water but she cannot do anything apart from telling them. Some of them that have money get ‘pure water’ (water packed in sachet) but there are not a lot in the community that is financially buoyant to get it. I knew that was not a sustainable means to get access to clean water.”
Eziama residents resort to herbal concoction and mixture to treat and manage their health issues.
10-year federal water project lying in waste
Although the community is about 40 minutes away from the city centre, it appears to have been neglected by the government. This is besides the poor road network that connects to Eziama.
A federal water project has been lying in waste since 2010 after Contractors abandoned the project due to unreleased funds.
“The King also pointed out an abandoned federal government water project in 2010 that was meant to be cited in the community. They just did about 60% of the project and it was abandoned. They said the contractors said the government was not releasing funds for the remaining aspect of the project to be complete. It was a project running into millions of naira”, Oraeki said.
In August, the community, especially women were overjoyed after the handover of their first ever water pumped borehole following an intervention by Hope Spring Water.
While it seems like respite has come for this community, a plethora of issues was raised by the interventionists.
Oraeki said: “Our major challenge executing a borehole was access to the community. The access was muddy and swampy. The location where the borehole was cited is quite strategic- at the centre of the hospital, primary and secondary school. Although that would not be enough to serve them because there are about 2500 people and that is the first-ever borehole.
“You can imagine the kind of pressure that will be on that borehole. It doesn’t solve the entire water problem. It is still very key that more interventions are done to the community to get access to clean water. They have just one health centre and it is not enough to handle the many cases that you see. There are so many people coming in and going out.”
Urging the government to look into the abandoned federal water project, he expressed belief that it has the potential to alleviate water poverty for not only Eziama but surrounding communities.
Ugwu on his part raised a campaign for the community through the MTN Foundation to cite more boreholes.
“I led the campaign on twitter and a lot of people nominated them again. I just hope the community will be considered by MTN Foundation. The campaign is not to shame anyone but to showcase to charitable organisations who could be of help. At least let people have access to clean water for a daily decent life”, he added.
Following his advocacy for policy and programmatic solutions in the education sector, Follow The Money Campaigner and CODE’s Chief Executive, Hamzat Lawal, has been listed as a Malala Fund Education Champion with 57 others from around the world to accelerate progress towards girls’ secondary education.
Hamzat Lawal was named alongside other notable Nigerian campaigners: Olabukunola Williams, Executive Director, Education as a Vaccine (EVA) and Benjamin John, Programs Manager, Restoration of Hope Initiative (ROHI).
This announcement was made by the Chief Programmes Officer at Malala Fund, Maliha Khan, on the Malala website. According to Khan, as COVID-19 threatens to force millions more girls out of school, Champion-led programmes and advocacy work is now even more important.
Reacting to the announcement, Lawal said “it is an honour to be listed to contribute to the fight for a right to education, especially for the girl child in Africa. The increasing number of out-of-school children especially in Nigeria’s North, continues to be an issue of great concern. Statistics show that for every 100 boys of primary age out of school, 121 girls are denied the right to education, worsening gender-based discrimination and putting girls at a disadvantage. Issues of water, sanitation and hygiene, and in many cases, insecurity affecting the delivery of education in conflict affected areas, are also factors driving children – particularly girls – away from the classroom.
Lawal will use CODE’s Follow The Money model to train and launch citizen-led teams to identify barriers to girls’ education in Adamawa state, northeast Nigeria. The team will advocate for and track the State’s spending on education and encourage government officials to invest in gender-responsive school infrastructure in creating conducive learning and safe space for girls to reach their full potential in life.
Education has remained one of Follow The Money’s focal thematic areas, through which the initiative has facilitated the provision of several school amenities and infrastructure across grassroots communities in Nigeria (through several social accountability mechanisms).
It also led civil society campaigns for the amendment of the Universal Basic Education (UBE) Act. Hamzat Lawal has also championed and co-organized other key campaigns for girl-child education in Northern Nigerian stressing that even during crisis, Education cannot wait for girls.
To celebrate 2020 World Press Freedom day, Media For Community Change partnered with the Embassy of Sweden in Nigeria to host a webinar.
The day is marked every May 3. This year’s event was organized to celebrate principles of press freedom and discuss the situation for journalists and media workers in Nigeria, concentrating on 2020’s theme ‘Journalism without Fear or Favour’.
Two highly rated guest speakers from the Nigerian media space – Mr. Dapo Olorunyonmi, CEO and Publisher of PremiumTimes Newspaper and Mrs. Motunrayo Alaka, CEO and Executive Director Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism attended the event.
They spoke on the topics: ‘Patterns of media ownerships in Nigeria and how it has enhanced or constrained values and how they interface in the process of democracy building’ and Promoting independent journalism and media online’ respectively.
Giving his presentation, Olorunyonmi, recounted the patterns of media ownerships in Nigeria from the 19th century of Private Print Press to Government Owned Broadcast and the digital age in 1996.
Although the digital age comes with its uniqueness, it is also comes with several challenges.
He explained: “I think the challenges ahead today would be how do we deepen that context? How do we shake up the excesses and weaknesses of our media up to this point. Those weaknesses, some of them alluded to by the Ambassador which is just sometimes just blatant lack of professionalism, inability to provide fact-based and contextual reporting and all these go to harm the project of democracy making because, at the end of the day, media as media is itself an oxymoron.
“We are reminded of the absence in our media culture and make sure we go as close as possible to building the foundation of an accountable media, ability to bring innovation into o the newsroom as things get far more difficult from a financial and ethical perspective.”
On the bright side, he noted that digital media has helped expand access to information exponentially although this is coinciding with “the worse type of ignorance and falsification.”
Alaka, on her part, highlighted the following as means to promoting media online- holding the government accountable especially in democracy, fighting for truth, walking the talk, developing the capacity of the media whether online or offline, providing legal support for reporters and collaboration across sectors and interests.
On accountability, she said: “It is easy a lot to call Facebook and Twitter to tell them to get their acts together, but we must also be truthful to acknowledge that at the centre of propaganda before the age of digital and during and perhaps after is the government itself and it is very active in the online space as a means of spreading misinformation and disinformation and it is used as a weapon for Government. We must hold the government accountable in this space.”
While fact checking by fighting the lies, she called on journalists to also fight for the truth.
She said: “Ethics is something that we have compromised a lot. I often say, if journalism is a product, credibility will be the unique selling point. We must do our best to spend accurate information early as much as we are debunking the lies in that space.”
Alaka equally urged media professionals to practice what they preach.
“When we talk about gender issues, the leadership of female persons in the newsroom, for instance, the media is at stake for 35 percent affirmative action representation for politicians but a survey by Wole Soyinka Center for Investigative Journalism on the status of female persons in the newsroom shows that media management has a ratio of 10:2 in favour of men as the ratio of leadership, senior editors ratio 8:2, the board of directors of media houses ratio 7:2, so if we are asking society to give us 35 percent we should not do less. In fact, we should do 50:50 but that is not the case”, she said.
Due to increased ‘publishers’ on the online media space, she called for training capacity for the ‘newbies’ on the ethics of journalism.
“Now that we are all publishers, those who have some form of structure around their publishing need to be trained in the ethics of journalism. WSCIJ is having a program in this regard to train people in that space because you are sharing the gains of having a voice, you need to bear the responsibility of having space with us. You have to be more proactive in that space”, she added.
Giving the opening speech, the Ambassador of Sweden Embassy in Nigeria, Carl Charles Grän, stressed the need to safeguard the freedom of the press.
He said: “We strongly believe that the ability to separate reliable information from unreliable information is highly connected to the quality of the press. This requires both knowledge and having access to the proper fact-checking tools.
“Therefore, the Embassy of Sweden in Nigeria has been using a toolkit produced by the Swedish Institute called Fake not Fact. With this toolkit we want to raise awareness and contribute with concrete fact checking tools. Earlier this year, we had exhibition in 3 different schools reaching over 100 school students. A free, independent and pluralistic media plays an indispensable role in informing the public during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.”
He appreciated the organizers, Media for Community Change saying, “the Embassy is proud to have worked with you in the past and hope to continue same.”
MFCC – “I left the camp since morning. We (children) went to pluck cashew nuts from the bush. We roast and eat it because there is no other food. I go every day”.
Those were the words of Mary Nuhu, 14, living in an Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp at Durumi, Area 1, Abuja, Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
This camp is located within the city centre of the nation’s capital with 2830 persons in it.
Nuhu and other residents were displaced in 2014 from Bama and Gwoza local governments in the northeastern state of Borno. They have now found solace in Abuja and gotten approval from the Nigerian government to settle in the community.
On this sunny Saturday morning, when MFCC’s reporter Titilope Fadare visited the camp, Nuhu and other children had gone to the bush.
The premises house a clinic, store and over 30 makeshift apartments positioned strategically at the corners of the camp. Some men, women, and children sat at one side in clusters having a conversation and peeling off ‘dawadawa’, an African locust fruit from the pod.
“Some of us go to the bush to get locust beans. The yellow part we eat it and sell the ‘dawadawa’ part. When our children are really hungry and have cried for a while, they settle to eat this and drink water”, the Chairman of the Camp, Ibrahim Ahmed told MFCC reporter, Titilope Fadare.
In order to feed this period, the minors are left with no option than to perform odd chores to survive the hunger fueled by the lockdown directive from the federal government to contain the spread of coronavirus.
At 1:16 pm, Mary and the other kids in their hundreds, returned to the camp, giggling and laughing.
She was able to pluck a 150 cl bottle full of cashew nuts after spending over five hours in the bush. Clutching unto the bottle as though she had just been awarded a trophy, she said she could not wait to show her family of 7, the proceeds of her fruitful venture.
The Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the camp, who gave his name as Umar Ali, said women and children are the primary focus in the camp when members of the executive share resources from their private allowances or donations from well-meaning donors.
“Both women and children enter the bush to get cashew. If there are items in the store, the chairman will share for the children because they are the ones who suffer the most. It is not easy. This coronavirus is ‘hunger-virus’.
“Sometimes we (Excos) remove money from our pockets to buy food for the children. Now, we don’t have much money again to take care of them because of the lockdown. It is supposed to be the federal government that should take up this responsibility.” Ali said, adding: “The first project of the federal government should be IDPs because they do not have any source of income, only through donations from people.”
Vulnerable and Forgotten…
The announcement of the lockdown caused intense apprehensions in Durumi camp due to their daily fight for survival. The restriction of movement has brought untold hardship in the camp as most of the residents largely rely on income from their daily hustle.
There was respite when the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRMI) reached out to the secretary of the camp requesting for their bank details. But three weeks have gone and the IDPs are yet to receive palliatives from the federal government.
“The Government did not check on our people or bring anything. The Refugees Commission promised to bring something but they have not done that for close to three weeks. Even the bank details we collected, the commission has not come to collect it.
“If you go to different IDP camps, it is the same situation. Others living around us who are not displaced- Igbos, Gbagyi, Calabar, they came here after hearing that the government will bring food for us but we told them we have not received anything”, Ahmed lamented bitterly.
The ‘hunger-virus’ that killed two…
Residents of the camps were sensitized about the effects and safety guidelines of coronavirus by media stations who had earlier visited the camp.
As a means to prevent the virus from getting to the camp, the Chairman advised that they remain around or within the premises.
While they had so far complied, the rules were temporarily suspended on the 15th of April, when they were alerted that a food truck on the expressway of Apo, an area close to the camp, was distributing food items.
Two brothers, Umar and Ibrahim, who were bike riders, dashed off to the scene and were fortunate to get a bag of rice despite the stampede.
On their way back to the camp, the duo sighted the Police and tried to make a U-turn to avoid being caught: they got hit by an on-coming jeep. One of the brothers was preparing for his marriage before the sad incident occurred.
“It was people who were equally looking for food that saw their bodies, identified them and traced them to our camp. Then, the Road Safety officials brought their corpse to us. No government official has condoled with us over their death”, Ali recounted in dismay.
‘Hunger-virus’ is not the only threat to their livelihood but how to practice social distancing in a tightly contained environment which serves as an avenue for the virus to thrive. They are worried.
“It is God saving us here. If coronavirus gets here, it will kill our poor families. Allah! If it enters our camp, many people will die. I swear. We warn our people not to go to town to look for food so they won’t bring the virus to the camp”, the Chairman said.
Arrival of the ‘Saviours’
Since the palliatives from the federal government stopped in July 2019, aids from religious institutions and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) have helped to mitigate the effect of poverty in the camp. But the lockdown has impeded these efforts.
Then, ‘saviours’ from a private company appeared and made it their responsibility to bring lunch to the camp daily to all the children and some women.
This day of visiting the camp was no exception as two vehicles from the organisation entered the premises of the camp at 2:05 pm to dish out food.
The donor taught the minors social distancing, made them wash their hands before collecting a plate of beans.
The Chief Executive Officer of the organization, Kingsley Obokhare, said he was prompted to support when it occurred to him that displaced persons will be one of the worst-hit due to the restriction of movement.
“When the lockdown started, it was so clear that we had to stock our homes with food following the directives from the government. Then I thought, (IDPs) do not have the money or the means to stock up. We then decided to put somethings together and started coming to the camp. We had collaborations with a club- corporate kickers and some well-meaning Nigerians. This is the 19th day of coming here”, he said.
Obokhare stays in Mararaba, a town in Nasarawa state and drives through several checkpoints to put a smile on the children’s faces.
“I don’t stay in town. I stay in Mararaba. Do you know the checkpoints to pass before I get here? It is killing! But I know a child is going to be happy when I come to town. It is painful to know that no money has been issued out. There was a time when we came late and it was scorching.
“They saw us and screamed with excitement. In other countries, they are giving these things free. We give a meal of N500 per child. If this medium can help us, we can do more for the women”, he added.
Menstruation is a natural biological process that is meant to dignify women and girls around the world. Unfortunately, it is otherwise in many parts of the world subject of ridicule, surrounded by myths and in rare actually cases, the cause of death of adolescent girls. Some see it as an unclean act that should be avoided, others see it as a process that should be performed in secrecy. The culture that sees it as such, often completely excludes women from social and religious activities.
In many parts of Nigeria, menstruation is a taboo word, shrouded in secrecy. Many girls and women believed that this aspect of their life should not be spoken about in public, or shared with anyone. This culture of stigma around menstruation ment hundreds of thousands, if not millions of girls confused and have no one to turn to for guidance.
Girls from poorer backgrounds are worst hit because most of the time, they are not able to talk about menstruation to anyone, and they cannot afford to buy menstrual pads when they get to that age. They simply dropped out of school. Bolu Olorunfemi is one of the leading advocates for sustainable menstrual hygiene management education in Nigeria. Her initiative called SuS Pads for short includes an element of training girls to sew their own reusable menstrual pads.
What brought about the SuS Pads initiative
The idea for SuS pads initiatIve was born when I was a volunteer menstrual hygiene facilitator with Hope Spring Water. After each workshop, we give each of the girls some disposable sanitary pads, which is usually donated by some generous donors and disposable sanitary pads manufacturers. One day we were reflecting on our workshops, we noticed that we were only solving the problem temporarily.
Once the disposable pads we gave the girls run out, unable to afford to buy them, they go back to using unhygienic materials. This led to the idea of teaching the girls how to make their own reusable menstrual pads.
When did the project begin?
We ran our first workshop late last year. We trained about 20 girls and a few women on how to make their own reusable menstrual pads. The participants were also gifted the materials and equipment to make their own pads in a kit bag. We recon the pad each person made on the day and the material in the kit bag can potentially keep a girl in pads for between 2-3 years, if not longer.
How many Training have you done so far
We have run two workshops so far. We have about six or so more planned for this year. But if we are lucky to find sponsorship, potentially, we can run up to twelve workshops in 2020. We have all the volunteers we need.
Which set of girls and women do you train or work with?
We concentrated more on the less privileged communities. We believe in reaching out to the girls and women who are in dire need and affected by period poverty. The girls who can’t afford a disposable pad. That is where the idea of training girls and women in public schools and rural communities came into play
Why do you think a reusable pad is better than a disposable pad?
According to many sources, plastic found in disposable menstrual hygiene products is the 5th most common plastic pollutant found in oceans, that reason on it’s own, it is strong enough for most people to consider switching to reusable pads.
Secondly, reusable pads are a lot cheaper than disposable pads. Most of them, depending on the material used can last a girl/woman many years. You just need to look after it well. This makes it a better choice for the girls we work with. It is much kinder to the environment when it goes head-head with disposable pads.
How do you measure your success?
The success of our workshop and training is measured by the numbers of people, positively impacted. We are even considering measuring the number of people who benefit indirectly from our training. Every workshop we ran so far, the girls are always excited about teaching their new skills to their sisters, mother and friends. We are working on a plan to start measuring absenteeism/drop-out figures, before and after our workshops.
The challenges you faced in your initial workshop?
The greatest challenge we faced was getting the permission we need from the Universal Basic Education Board. One of our team members went there over and over but no definite response from them. This held back the date selected for our first project and affected our planning. We hope UBEB can improve on their response to issues that are of high importance to vulnerable girls under their care.
What are Your plans for 2020
We intend to impact more girls and expand our reach by trying to reduce school absenteeism during menstruation. We love to see these girls complete their education and have a brighter future. When a girl has the right knowledge the nation and the world becomes better
What is your advice to younger girls
Menstruation is a natural biological process, it’s not unclean. You need to love yourself and be confident. You can become what you want to be in life, acquire the necessary skills and nothing can stop you.
In 2000, flood in Mozambique was responsible for 800 deaths, 329,000 displaced people and almost 2 million people affected in all. Between July 2011 and 2012, the entire East Africa region suffered a severe drought, said to be “the worst drought in 60 years.” Across the Lake Chad region, the drying up of the water bodies has badly affected over 17 million people in North-Eastern Nigeria, Cameroon’s Far North, Western Chad and South-East Niger.
By 2050, between 350 million and 601 million people are projected to experience increased water stress due to climate change across Africa with women, children and the elderly more vulnerable. Driven by this, young people across the African continent are putting their feet on the ground and striving to change this narrative.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the Young and Future Generations Day at COP 25 in Madrid, Nigeria’s Seyifunmi Adebote representing youths from the African continent shared inspiring stories of how African Youths are leading climate action by implementing mitigation and adaptation projects, proposing innovative solutions, driving social progress and inspiring political change.
Addressing high-level members of the UN with hundreds of youth leaders and climate change activists present, Adebote said, “I understand that the future of over 225 million youths across the African continent stands at great risk, so I speak with a huge sense of responsibility and urgency. I have not come here to point fingers and accuse our leaders, we are here to bring solutions to the table. In Nigeria, we recently harvested over 1000 youth-led, climate-focused creative ideas, some of which are now being groomed to into profitable businesses. What matters now is that we must hold leaders to account, for promises made and agreements signed.”
Seyifunmi spoke alongside other youth delegates representing other regions of the world; Zuzanna Borowska from Poland, Kisha Erah Muaña from the Philippines, Irfan Ullah from Pakistan, Komal Kumar from Fiji and Juan Jose Martin from Chile.
UNFCCC’s Executive Secretary, Patricia Espinosa had earlier called on the youth to help in educating people around the world. “For every decision we make in our life, we need to think about the consequences of that decision” she said.
The World AIDS Day is an annual global event celebrated every December 1 by government organizations, NGOs, civil society groups and other health officials since 1988. The aim is to create increased awareness of HIV/AIDS and issues around its treatment and prevention etc.
The theme for this year is COMMUNITIES MAKE THE DIFFERENCE. For Nigeria, this year’s celebration is remarkable record following results released in March 14, 2019. According to Nigeria HIV/AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey (NAILLS) 2018, it was indicated that a national HIV prevalence among adults aged 15-49 years dropped from 2.8% to 1.4% while that of persons aged 0-14 is 0.1per cent.
The survey was conducted by the Nigerian government with the support of the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the US Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and other development partners. Recently, Nigeria launched was the revised National HIV and AIDS Strategic Framework 2019–2021 which guides the country’s future response to the epidemic.
While these appear to be a huge milestone achieved, UNAIDS and the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) estimate that there are 1.9 million people living with HIV in Nigeria. An article compiled by Avert titled ‘HIV and AIDS in Nigeria’ in 2018 detail harrowing tales on the status of the virus in the country.
At the National level, budgetary allocations to NACA have tremendously increased over the years. In 2015, N2,782,195,433 was set aside for the agency. The 2016 budget was almost doubled from the previous year as N4,207,757,600 was included for the agency in the year’s appropriations act. N4,576,225,680 was approved for the agency in 2017 budget. A slight decrease is observed in the agency’s 2018 allocation as N4,533,501,678 was earmarked. Close to N2 billion was added to NACA’s 2019 budget as its allocation was pegged at N6,705,107,443.
In spite of these allocations to the agency, paltry sums have been released thus far evident in low disbursements of capital expenditure across all Ministries, Departments and Agencies. The U.S. Embassy Charge d’affaires, David Young charged the Nigerian government to own and invest in the country’s HIV response to ensure sustainability.
Other barriers cut across several platforms. One of which is culture due to prevailing female genital mutilation, widowhood rites, Girl child marriage in the northern part of the country among others.
On the legal front, although there is an anti-discrimination law protecting those living with the virus and necessitating HIV testing, UNAIDS in 2016 reported that the situation remains the same as 21% of people living with HIV disclose denied access to health services due to their status.
With the aforementioned challenges addressed and ongoing initiatives like the Saving One Million Lives project (SOML) and the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF), health experts believe it will chart the course in achieving the desired results.
At the legislative level, each lawmaker should undertake constituency awareness campaigns in their localities to sensitize citizens across the nation.
Despite efforts to curb the virus, initial challenges remain. Avert highlighted several issues that have been neglected thus far which has hampered expected improvements.
Top on the list is the inadequate involvement of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in decision-making roles despite playing a key role in service delivery and HIV education.
Even in the formulation of the National Strategic Framework, civil society input was not sought according to African Commission as there is no civil society forum.
Funding has also been a huge shortfall in achieving the required goal to curb the spread of the virus even as the majority of funds come from international donors, the report stated.
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