By; MOHAMMED KAWU, Bauchi
Young people aged between 10 and 24 years in Ghana and Nigeria on Thursday embarked on a hackathon journey that will give them the opportunity to share their promising ideas and innovative solutions to end open defecation in their communities.
The young people are mobilized to put an end to this widespread practice which exacerbates malnutrition and contributes to diarrheal diseases, a leading cause of child deaths in West and Central Africa.
According to the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), the hackathon will run for several months, with the competitions organized between groups of young people in the two countries for them to come up with their own solutions to end open defecation.
The UN agency statement signed by its communication assistant, Nchekwube Nwosu-Igbo said that winners from Ghana and Nigeria will face each other in a multi-country challenge to determine the best ideas for ending open defecation.
It said final winners of the hackathon will showcase their solutions in November 2021 at the 6th African Conference on Sanitation and Hygiene (Africa San 6), to be hosted by the African Minister’s Council on Water, a specialized Committee for Water and Sanitation of the African Union.
The statement explained that winners will also have the opportunity to put their solutions into practice in 2022 and get additional support to incubate and improve on their ideas in partnership with UNICEF.
West and Central Africa accounts for 24 per cent of global open defecation, with 120 million people practicing it, as Nigeria ranks second in the world with 38 million people.
UNICEF stated that eight countries of the region have more than five million people practicing open defecation, including Ghana (5.5 million people).
Nchekwube Nwosu revealed that the rate of open defecation is five times higher in rural areas (35 per cent) compared to urban areas (7 per cent).
While two countries, Ghana and Nigeria, are part of the first phase of the hackathon, other countries from West and Central Africa will be encouraged to join later.
The region is home to 120 million adolescents aged 10-19, almost a quarter of the total population, said Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa.
The hackathon will provide a pathway for future engagement with young people on ending open defecation over the next years, complementing actions implemented by governments and UNICEF.
Only four countries in West and Central Africa (Cabo Verde, The Gambia, Guinea and Mali) are currently on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of ending open defecation by 2030.
Most countries are making progress but at a pace too slow to keep up with population growth, further reinforcing the urgency in accelerating results by increasing mobilization at all levels.