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Nigeria needs 2million toilets yearly to exit open defecation – UNICEF Specialist

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Open Defecation

Nigeria Second Largest In Diarrhoea Child Deaths

About 24 percent of Nigeria’s population, which is put at 47 million people, according to the 2018 Water Sanitation and Hygiene National Outcome Routine Mapping (WASH NORM) survey, practise open defecation. It has also been revealed that Nigeria ranks second amongst countries practising open defecation globally.

The study indicated that the North Central has the highest of 53.9 percent, followed by the Southwest with 28 percent. The Southeast has 22.4 percent, Northeast 21.8 percent, South-south 17.9 percent, while Northwest has 10 percent.

Out of the 774 local governments in the country, only 13 are free of open defecation. To eradicate this menace, at least seven million toilets would be needed. 

Statistics also showed that, while 34 percent of schools and 12 percent of hospitals have access to basic sanitation services, one in three Nigerians does not have access to potable water. So, for the country to be Open Defecation free by 2025, the government needs to add two million toilets yearly, beginning from 2019, whereas, the country’s current delivery of improved toilets is put at 160, 000 per year.

This deplorable state of affairs informed the Federal Government’s move, through its Ministry of Water Resources to develop an initiative tagged: Making Nigeria Open Defecation Free by 2025 with support from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

It was against this backdrop that Child Rights Information Bureau (CRIB) of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, in collaboration with UNICEF, recently, organised a two-day media dialogue on sanitation tagged: Clean Up Nigeria: Use The Toilet campaign in Ibadan, Oyo State. 

The media advocacy was targeted at mobilising government to put more resources into helping citizens change their ways and stop the practice of open defecation, as well as improve sanitation, especially in rural communities. The programme was also targeted at getting the private sector to use its platform and products to launch the campaign and invest in the construction of toilets.

During a field trip to some communities in Ibadan around Sango Oju-Irin Market in Irepodun Local Government, open defecation posed a huge threat in the area. Dugbe, Sango and Omi-Adio communities were equally not spared.

This unhygienic condition was a source of concern to many residents of the communities, who lamented their helplessness and called on the government to do something to ameliorate the situation. 

Mrs. Jones Elisabeth, a community leader, said she abhorred dirt, but all her efforts at preventing open defecation in her area failed.

She said: “We are helpless, and that’s why we are living with it. We tried to stop people from defecating here, but they have refused. Indeed, we fought them and did all we could, but we couldn’t stop them.”

A resident, Madam Shade Olorunfemi said the situation was unbearable, but she had nowhere else to go. “We are tired of this. It is truly terrible, as they even defecate right in front of our houses, but we have no option than to clean it. Before long, another set of people come and defecate there again,” she said. 

Other residents were concerned about well water in the area. Many people told The Guardian that their children often fall sick, due to indiscriminate defecation. This, they said, was particularly pathetic considering their financial status. They said some cases resulted in deaths and called for help from the government. 

At Bodija Market, the Director of Environmental Services, Mrs. Bukola Bello, explained that despite the construction of 30 compartments of toilets, the campaign to stop open defecation has only recorded about 50 percent success.

She said part of efforts was the creation of a special court, which tries people caught defecating openly. The court fines that convicted N1, 500, and those unable to pay were made to do compulsory community service.

A hygiene specialist with UNICEF, Mr. Bioye Ogunjobi, who spoke at the media parley, said Nigeria loses about 1.3 percent (N455bn) of its GDP annually, due to poor sanitation and a third of that cost is as a result of open defecation. 

He said more than 100,000 under-five children die yearly due to diarrhea, of which 90 percent is directly attributed to unsafe water and poor sanitation, adding that Nigeria is the second country with the highest number of child deaths caused by diarrhea. 

He said: “This has an impact on child development. Indeed, one in four under-five children in Nigeria exhibits severe stunting, while one in 10 children is lost, due to frequent episodes of diarrhea and other water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) related illnesses. 

“Frequent episodes of water, sanitation and hygiene-related diseases cause low productivity among the people, whereby children miss school and adults are absent from work, as affected people take time off to heal, and some to take care of sick relatives.”
 
The Head of Child Rights Information Bureau in the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, Mr. Olumide Osanyinpeju, who also spoke at the programme, urged Nigerians to cultivate the habit of using toilets and desist from practising open defecation because of its attendant risks and consequences on human health, especially children. 

He said: “Sanitation is an essential ingredient to children’s survival and development, as it could 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.” 

A communication specialist with UNICEF, Dr. Geoffrey Njoku, urged the media to step up reportage of issues around sanitation, as well as sensitise people on the need to shun open defecation and imbibe use of toilets. He urged the media to create awareness on the benefits of cleanliness and the dangers of open defecation to people’s health and wellbeing. 

On the way forward, Mr. Ogunjobi said the country needs two million toilets per year between 2019 and 2025 to get the 47 million Nigerians to use toilets, to achieve the target of Universal Basic Sanitation.

He said: “Based on empirical study, every naira invested in water and sanitation sector results in economic benefit that ranges from N1, 080 to N12, 240. The gains come through savings in healthcare costs, increased productivity, and entrepreneurial opportunities for the sanitation market.”  

Mrs. Blessing Ejiofor, UNICEF Communications Officer, did some brainstorming with stakeholders. She also urged the media to look for areas that will assist in ending open defecation. 

Speaking on the journey so far, Mrs. Opara Chijioma from the Federal Ministry of Water Resources, said the government had developed strategies to combat the scourge of open defecation. She disclosed that technical committees had been constituted for Clean Up Nigeria Campaign and that the government should legislate on it to stop the ugly trend. 

Ekiti was ranked second among states that practise open defecation. Following this disclosure, the state government said it would create institutional and legal frameworks to ensure Ekiti becomes open defecation free before 2030. It explained that part of what accounted for the unsavoury development was low water supply in homes.

In a related development, Ekiti State Commissioner for Environment, Mr. Gbenga Agbeyo, said recently at a two-day capacity building workshop for CSOs that some people caught defecating in the open were arrested.

Agbeyo, who frowned at the menace, warned residents to desist from the act or be ready to face the consequences.

He disclosed that the Environmental Task Force would start enforcing environmental laws, and those found wanting would be dealt with. The Commissioner said every house in Ekiti must have at least a toilet to put a stop to unwarranted habit of open defecation.

Sometime in April 2018, the European Union (EU) offered to finance the construction of model public toilets in 14 small towns in Ekiti West and Gbonyin Local Government under its Water Supply and Sanitation Reform Programme III.

The project titled: ‘Farewell to Open Defecation’ is being implemented by Bread of Life Development Foundation, in collaboration with Ekiti State Small Towns Water Supply and Sanitation Programme.

A 2014 UNICEF survey showed that 92 per cent of communities in Gbonyin Local Government were without public latrines. In Ekiti West, 124 communities were without any form of public latrine, according to Ekiti West WASH Profile 2014 Report.

The project will enable construction of modern public toilets between October 2018 and May 2019 in Iluomoba, Agbado, Egbe, Imesi, Ijan, Aisegba and Ode in Gbonyin LGA; and Erio, Ido-Ile, Ipole-Iloro, Aramoko, Oke Imesi, Erinjinyan and Ikogosi in Ekiti West Local Government.

The constructed public toilets will be handed over to Public Toilet Management Committee, while private operators will be locally recruited to operate and maintain them.


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