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Ending open defecation will aid children’s survival, say UNICEF-Nigeria, experts


To halt the number of Under-5 babies that die yearly in the country, experts have said it would require improved sanitation, ending open defecation and good drinking water.

It is surprising that despite efforts by governments and inter-government agencies to quell child death in the country, those efforts seem to amount to nothing. This is because a recent statistics from the 2018 Nigeria Demographic Health Survey (NDHS) revealed that the number of under-5 children dying yearly has continued to increased in the last five years.

The latest NDHS document disclosed that Under-5 death increased from 128 deaths per 1,000 live births in the five years prior to 2013 NDHS, to 132 deaths per 1,000 live births in five years after 2013. This is estimated to be about one million U-5 children dying yearly. Ironically, many of these needless deaths have been traced to diarrhea and water borne disease.


Similarly, latest findings from the Federal Ministry of Water Resources (FMWR) revealed that more than 100,000 children under-5 die each year due to diarrhea. This ranks Nigeria as the second leading country where children die from diarrhea.

But these deaths could be drastically reduced if an end is put to open defecation and good hygiene, sanitation is promoted; United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Nigeria Communication Specialist, Geoffery Njoku, told journalists, during an EU-UNICEF sponsored media dialogue on sanitation tagged “Clean Nigeria: Use the Toilet”, last week, at Tahr Hotel Kano, Kano state.

According to him, there is a huge link between sanitation, open defecation and child survival, hence the need for all to join #The Clean Nigeria Campaign.

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Specialist, UNICEF-Nigeria, Bioye Ogunjobi disclosed that one in three Nigerians do not have access to potable water, with 90 per cent of households using contaminated water.

“47 million Nigerians, about 24 per cent of the country’s population defecate in the open, while another 33 million citizens use unimproved toilets. On average, people living in rural areas have access to only four litres of water each day.

“Only 34 per cent of schools and 12 per cent of hospitals have access to basic sanitation services. Nigeria was ranked second among countries practising open defecation globally, according to the 2018 WASH national outcome routine mapping (WASH NORM) survey held.

It is therefore not surprising that the Federal Government recently declared a state of emergency on Water Sanitatioin and Hygiene culminating in the launch of an Open Defecation Free (ODF) campaign, to jump-start the country’s journey towards ending open defecation by 2025.

Explaining this during his speech, Deputy Director, Head Child Rights Information Bureau, Federal Ministy of Information and Culture, Abuja, Olumide Osanyinpeju, commended UNICEF and other groups for ensuring that Nigeria has access to safe drinking water, adequate sanitation and proper hygiene.

“It can reduce the severity and impact of malnutrition. It can also help in reducing the spread of intestinal worms, as well as promoting dignity and boosting safety, particularly among women and children. Proper sanitation facilities promote health because it allows people dispose off their waste appropriately.

“Open defecation perpetuates a vicious cycle of disease and poverty. Inadequate waste disposal promotes the infection cycle of many agents that can spread through contaminated soil, food, water and insects such as flies.”

Explaining UNICEF’s target and priorities regarding the ‘Clean Nigeria: Use The Toilet’ campaign, Ogunjobi said: “Our focus is to get 47 million Nigerians to use toilet and stop open defecation; eliminate open defecation by 2025; bring water, sanitation and hygiene to disadvantaged communities in rural area; improve access to safe drinking water and sanitation in schools and health care facilities and promote awareness on sanitation and hygiene.”

He called for strong political commitment at all leadership levels to improve sanitation and end open defecation.

“There is also need to increase WASH funding at all levels, especially at rural areas. There is need for increased private sector engagement in the WASH sector- through business investment and corporate social responsibility.”


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