Ikot Ukpong is a local community in Akwa-Ibom State, South South Nigeria and it’s a few kilometres drive from the state capital, Uyo. The village is famous for its cash crop production and prides itself as the custodian of the relics of the peoples’ ancient tradition.
The only road leading to the community is untarred and, like many other villages in Nigeria, Ikot Ukpong lacks other basic social amenities like electricity,health facilities and good schools.
Notwithstanding the poor infrastructure, Ikot Ukpong glows with a peculiar feature: a white four-litre gallon hanging on a slim piece of wood at the back of each house.
Asked if this was part of aesthetics, chieftains of the village said it’s a local technology taught them by health officials to promote hygiene.
“The technology is quite easy as all an individual does after using the toilet is to go to the tippy tap, press the connecting rope with the sole of his or her feet and wash their hands,” according to the village authority.
Udosen Emmanuel, deputy head of the village, said the new technology was introduced to the community after it was certified an open defecation-free area by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). He recounted that many of the homes had no toilet facilities and so many residents had to defecate in open space.
But this also came with its own challenges as residents faced huge difficulties using the bush at night, according to Emmanuel.
He said many residents died due to snake bite and outbreak of diseases because of water contamination, especially during raining season.
Many Ikot Ukpong residents now own pit latrines, many without rooftops or side covers to shield users.
Most residents say they often need the umbrella during raining season before they could use the toilet. But residents insisted that the inconvenience is nothing compared to the dangers of open defecation.At a recent media dialogue on water, sanitation and hygiene in Uyo, capital city of Akwa-Ibom, UNICEF WASH specialist, Mustapha Niang, says about 46 million Nigerians still engage in open defecation.
Nigeria must promote sanitation 20 times more than it presently does to meet SDG target six while government and philanthropists should help build defecation facilities in public places, he added. Niang warned that open defecation constitutes serious health threats to the public.
Perhaps no Akwa Ibom community understands this message than residents of Ikot Ukpong whose village was recently named as free from open defecation. Residents said they have been better for it as they now enjoy better health.
At the launch of the sanitation project recently, they commended the donor agencies and their government for giving them clean water and the tippy-tap technology which has made hand washing a new culture in the community.