By Alhagie Babou Jallow
The National Youth Council in collaboration with directorate of health promotion and education unit has recently embarked on sensitization program on Open Defecation Free (ODF) for youth in the central river region, at Bansang Youth Centre, in Upper Fulladu West District, CRR South.
The sensitization program was by United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, UNICEF.
Addressing the participants, the programme officer for NYC Alhagie Jarju said the training is endeavored to enlighten the participants on open defecation (OD) in the country and putting measures to address it.
According to him, the Gambia will be the first developing country in the sub-Saharan Africa that is likely to end OD well before 2030. He pointed out that significant progress had been made in all the regions with an increasing number of communities attaining OD free status through the community led total sanitation (CLTS) programme.
“The government and its partners are committed to achieve and declare the Gambia OD free by November 2017. However, to achieve this national goal, not only strong push is needed but other innovative approaches are required to reach the remaining 1% of the population still practicing the activity,” he said.
Jarju further said the majority of this 1% lives in hydrological challenging environment such as nearby river dwellers and remote areas. He noted that fishing communities and herdsmen are major challenging areas of open defecation. He said that report from SLTS taskforce committee confirmed that 100 OD communities are representing the 1%.
The Acting Programme Coordinator for Water Sanitation and Hygienic (WASH) under the ministry of health Dembo Fatty said the training is instrumental in ending OD within the region, noting that OD has health implications to the society.
According to Fatty, CRR has the highest percentage of OD in the Gambia with 59% in Nianija district. He said that the people of the region have a significant role to play in eliminating the remaining 1% of OD across the nation.
On their part, the regional youth Chairperson Omar Jammeh and youth representative Aminata Ndongo both spoke extensively on the importance of the sensitization, which was aimed at ending open defecation in the region. They commended NYC, UNICEF and Directorate of Health Promotion and Education Unit for organizing such an important forum in the region.