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How to stop open defecation

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Sir: Over the years the United Nations has estimated that 51 per cent of the global population has no access to functional toilets. This now stands at 39 per cent with about 2.4 million people still lacking access to sanitation including a good water system.

Open defecation is a major global sanitisation concern with millions of people still not having access to toilet facilities. According to WHO, one in four Nigerian practise open defecation. This represents about 47 million Nigerians. Northern Nigeria is particularly hit because of the huge poverty and literacy levels. This is a result of a lack of good toilet facilities. Less than two-thirds of households in Nigeria have their toilet.

The United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, data show that 32 million Nigerians have no access to improved toilets. At a summit held in New York City on September 25-27, 2015 one of the SDGs agenda was aimed at achieving “access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation,” particularly paying special attention to girls and women in these vulnerable situations. The summit also observed that the ‘safety’ of latrine constructed in developing countries everyday point to how contaminated these latrines will be in the future unless the issue of proper construction is addressed.

In Nigeria, the advocacy to end open defecation was launched in 2016, head by Zaid Jurji, head of Hand Wash at UNICEF Nigeria, aimed at ending open defecation in 2025. The plan involved providing equitable access to water sanitation and hygiene services and strengthening tailored community approaches to total sanitation.

Open defecation continues to unleash health risks sometimes leading to deaths from poor sanitation and hygiene practices. For example, according to data from WHO, not washing hands with soap after defecation and before eating contribute to over 800,000 deaths from diarrhea, cholera, and typhoid more than malaria.

According to UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), one gram of faces can contain 10 million viruses, one million bacteria, and one thousand parasites cysts. WHO estimated that 1$ invest in water and toilet return an average of US 4$ in saved medical cost, averted death, and increased productivity. It is based on this that as a Youth Corp member in 2018 and as the president of the SDGs Community Development Service, CDS group, I took the bull by the horn by initiating a personal project for the construction of six modern water toilet facilities and provision of hand-washing containers at Apostolic Government Middle School, Ipetumodu, Ife North Osun State. It was quite challenging raising funds for the project which must be in-line with NYSC guidelines. However, three months later the project was executed and commission by NYSC state Coordinator, Mr. Emmanuel Attah who was represented by Olabanjo, the principal of the school. The children were happy; the community celebrated the philanthropic gesture towards the community. My utmost joy was seeing the children saved from environmental health hazards.

Today I call on our leaders and youths to contribute to humanitarian services, no matter how little. It can save lives and bring changes. It is not until we are elected to a political position or given an appointment before we can make a difference. Your little effort in your community can bring that change we all desire. I’m excited any time I receive a call from them with the word of prayer for me. I’m happy they are using the facility. My dream is to serve humanity. I am willing to share my experiences with any Non-Government Organisation working to end open defecation. My dream is also in the future to start an NGO working to end open defecation in Nigeria.  

Kiso Terhemen Simon.


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