In November 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari declared a state of emergency in the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector, and reaffirmed Federal Government’s determination to make Nigeria open defecation free country.
The president also launched a national campaign to jump-start the country’s journey towards becoming open defecation-free (ODF) by 2025.
The Federal Ministry of Water Resources, with the support of UNICEF and the media is currently leading the “Clean Nigeria: Use the Toilet Campaign’’ in order to achieve the 2025 target.
But the question posed by WASH experts is how feasible is this open defecation-free Nigeria by 2025? They posed the question based on what is on the ground.
For instance, according to the 2018 National Outcome Routine Mapping (NORM) Report, 47 million Nigerians defecate in the open, while the country loses N455 billion (US$1.3b) annually due to poor sanitation.
Also, the 2018 WASH National Outcome Routine Mapping, World Health Organisation/ UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation Survey, revealed that Nigeria ranked second among countries practising open defecation globally, after India. The survey stated that Nigeria’s current delivery of improved toilet is approximately pegged at 160,000 per year.
The implication of this, according to the survey, is that one out of every four children under five years of age, would exhibit severe stunting, while one in 10, would be wasted, due to frequent episodes of diarrhoea and other WASH-related illnesses.
Nonetheless, if Nigeria can add two million toilets per year between 2019 and 2025, the target of Universal Basic Sanitation would be achieved, thereby saving the country N455 billion, representing 1.3 per cent of its GDP that is lost to poor sanitation, the survey said.
As part of efforts to achieve the 2025 target, UNICEF says it is partnering the Federal Government to tackle open defecation in Nigeria.
Mr Geoffrey Njoku, UNICEF Communication Specialist, Nigeria, reiterated that Nigeria was ranked second among countries that practice open defecation in the world after India.
In a media dialogue workshop entitled, “Clean Nigeria: Use the Toilet Campaign,” held in Ibadan recently, Njoku said that Nigeria was also ranked first among the countries practising open defecation in Africa. Njoku said that UNICEF would continue to partner the Federal Government to tackle open defecation in the country.
He said the purpose of the workshop was to engage the media in the campaign against open defecation with the aim of putting an end to the act.
Njoku said the media dialogue was also aimed at creating awareness about Clean Nigeria and mobilise resources to sustain the national movement.
Mr Olumide Osanyipeju, Head, Child Rights Information Bureau, Federal Ministry of Information, Abuja, who spoke, said UNICEF had been in the forefront of ensuring that Nigerians have access to safe drinking water supply, adequate and proper hygiene in their communities.
Osanyipeju, who noted that open defecation perpetuates a vicious of disease and poverty, said that was why the Federal Government declared a state of emergency in WASH in order to end open defecation.
He said the government with the support of UNICEF, and in partnership with inter-ministerial agencies, civil society partners and private sector, were currently leading the open defecation campaign to end the scourge in the country by 2025, and achieve universal access to safely manage sanitation by 2030.
Osanyipeju said Clean Nigeria, Use the Toilet Campaign, was one of the most ambitious behaviour-change in Nigeria, with a strong-citizen and public engagement component.
He urged the media to assist government in sensitising Nigerians on the dangers of open defecation.
In her contribution, Mrs Chizoma Opara, the Acting Coordinator, Clean Nigeria Project, Federal Ministry of Water Resources, said the Federal Government will continue to seek the support of the media in the Clean-up Nigeria Campaign.
Opara, who noted that 47 million Nigerians still defecate in the open, said the media were critical to the campaign against open defecation.
She expressed regret that Nigeria was ranked second among countries that practice open defecation in the world after India, and first in Africa.
Opara said while India would be open defecation-free by October 2, Nigeria would likely be ranked first in the world among the countries that practice open defecation.
She said there was an urgent need for media support for dissemination of behavioural change messages to the people.
Opara said Nigerians must be adequately informed on the need to build toilets and make use of them rather than defecating openly, which could result in outbreak of diseases.
She disclosed that the Federal Government had constituted a technical working group for the Clean Nigeria Campaign to help end open defecation by 2025.
Mr Bioye Ogunjobi, UNICEF Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Specialist, said the media should continue to help government to educate people on the dangers of open defecation.
Ogunjobi expressed dismay that only 13 out of the 774 local government areas in Nigeria were open defecation-free.
He canvassed aggressive media awareness to make Nigeria open defecation-free to help in improving the well-being of citizens.
He also called for public-private partnership in the campaign against open defecation.
According to Ogunjobi, 10.3 per cent of the population in the North-West practice open defecation, while 17.9 per cent do the same in the South-South.
He said 21.8 per cent population in the North-East, 22.4 per cent in the South-East, 28.9 per cent in the South-West and 53.9 per cent in the North-Central practice open defecation.
Ogunjobi said Clean-up Nigeria Campaign must be assisted by the media in order to end open defecation and its associated challenges.
Meanwhile, during a field trip to Ogbere-Idi-Osan Market in Ona-Ara Local Government Area of Oyo State, market women said the campaign against open defecation had improved sanitation in the area.
Mrs Omowumi Popoola, the Director of Sanitation Health Services, said the three-unit block of toilets built within the market had helped in preventing open defecation within the market.
Popoola said anyone who wished to make use of the toilet must pay N50, while those who wanted to urinate must pay N30. She said the people had been making use of the toilet to improve sanitation in the area.
Although several questions have been raised on why many Nigerians engage in open defecation, WASH experts say the solution is easy access to toilets in public places like markets, motor parks, among others, and creating awareness on dangers of open defecation.
They say with the necessary awareness created and toilet facilities accessible and available, the 2025 target of open defecation-free Nigeria may be realised.
Adeoti is of the News Agency of Nigeria.