By Victoria Ojeme
CALABAR- United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF new data on percentage of Nigerians practicing open defecation across the geopolitical zones, has revealed that the North Central region topped the chart with about 59.9 per cent.
Out of the 47 million Nigerians that practice open defecation, 16 million live in the North Central.
The report released by UNICEF in Calabar at a dialogue and partnership meeting with the media to achieve Open Defecation Free Nigeria by 2025 shows that one in four Nigerian (24.4%) defecate in the open while one in two persons in the North Central defecate in the open.
According to report, the South West region came second at 28.0 per cent, followed by the South East at 22.4 per cent, North East 21.8, South South 17.9 and North West at 10.3 per cent.
The reasons that have been given for people who don’t use toilets have either been poverty that makes it a challenge to build latrines or lack of government support in providing such facilities. In cases where the toilets are available but people still end up preferring opened defecation, the reasons can extend to cultural issues related with sharing toilets among family members.
Open defecation has is a leading cause of diarrhoea and other problems associated with the ingesting and exposure to human waste which affect children under the age of 5 years the most.
This exposure is because most of open defecation happens next to water ways and rivers. The result of open defecation near water ways is that it is carried into the water system. As a consequence, the contaminated water ends up in the main water source. When people use the water as it for drinking and cooking it results in water borne diseases such as cholera, typhoid, and trachoma.
According to Chief of UNICEF Enugu Field Office, Dr Ibrahim Conteh, represented by Doutimiye Kiakubu eliminating open defecation will meet the overall sanitation mandate of the Sustainable Development Goals as clearly defined in Target 6.2- “By 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all, and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations.”
Conteh said this means is that all households, institutions (schools, health centres, etc) and public places like markets and motor parks must have and use an improved sanitation facility; there must be a safe means of evacuation/desludging, transporting, treating and finally disposing the fecal waste when the latrine pits are filled up; and there must be an end to open defecation.
On his part, Olumide Osanyinpej, a Deputy Director and Head of Child Rights Information Bureau at the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, Abuja said the “Clean Nigeria: Use the Toilet” campaign is one of the most ambitious behaviour-change campaigns in Nigeria with a strong citizen / public engagement component.
He said “The campaign to end open defecation is a key initiative that will reach many unserved populations. Leveraging on what is currently working in the States with Local Government Areas’ certified ODF; this campaign mode will create a national movement with elements of policy advocacy, public advocacy, grassroots mobilization, and private sector engagement
“Sanitation is essential to the survival and development of children. 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
“Sanitation standards are intended to ensure that people do not suffer adverse health effects that can result if toilets are not available when needed. 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. Open defecation is incredibly dangerous, as contact with human waste can cause diseases such as cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, polio, diarrhoea, worm infestation and under nutrition. We must double our current efforts in order to end open defecation by 2030,” he explained.