Last week, Nigeria joined the rest of the world in observing the World Toilet Day. The event brought into focus, the challenge that millions of Nigerians still practice open defecation. DEBORAH OCHENI reports
November 19 every year is set aside as the World Toilet Day.
It is an event designed to draw attention to the plight of billions of people, who still have to do without a toilet in different parts of the world.
Evidently, sanitation is a cross cutting issue that requires active participation of various sectors of the government as well as development partners, non-governmental organisations(NGOs), community based organisations (CBOs) as well as the generality of citizens in every country.
Nigeria is among the nations in the world with the highest number of people practicing open defecation. An estimated 47 million people in Nigeria do not have modern toilet facilities in their homes and therefore defecate in the open fields, nearby bushes and inside nearby water bodies such as rivers, streams, lakes and ponds.
The practice has had a negative effect on the populace, especially children, in the areas of health and education and had contributed to the country’s failure to meet the targets of the Millennium Development Goals.
Minister of Environment, Mohammad Mahmood Abubakar, who hosted this year’s World Toilet Day event in Abuja, said access to toilets and other sanitary facilities have remained a mirage to a vast majority of Nigerians. In his address at the 2020 World Toilet Day event, Abubakar highlighted the extent of the problem and the implications of not having good toilet facilities in homes, offices and public places.
“Today, about 47 million Nigerians still practice open defecation, hence many people still use the bush and water bodies as their regular means for excreta disposal. “Many institutions do not have sanitary facilities and where they exist, they are either not functioning or misused; most urban areas do not have sewerage systems, safe collection of sewage and disposal therefore, become a huge challenge as many of the bodies of water, including rivers and streams, become a repository for sewage and wastewater.
“One of the major consequences of poor excreta and sewage disposal is the high rate of diarrhea disease, which is the second cause of high morbidity and mortality rates amongst children under the age of five.
“The persistent re-occurrence of annual incidences of Cholera outbreak in some of our states and the occurrence and re-occurrence of other excreta related diseases are also manifestations of inadequate toilet facilities. Yet, this could also be prevented through safe excreta disposal by every individual,” he said.
Abubakar said that for reasonable impact to be made in the efforts to change the current narrative, the private sector and other stakeholders would need to partner with the Federal Ministry of Environment and governments at all levels in providing sanitary facilities for communities, especially the rural areas where open defecation had become a norm.
He assured Nigerians that the Federal Government would remain committed to addressing the challenges of poor sanitation, including ending open defecation and ensuring proper management of excreta in the country.
“This commitment is demonstrated by Mr. President’s declaration of state of emergency on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in the country and signing of the Executive Order 009 2019 on Open Defecation Free Nigeria by 2025 on 20th November, 2019.
“Equally, the Federal Ministry of Environment, in collaboration with critical stakeholders has reviewed and validated the 2005 National Environmental Sanitation Policy including its policy guidelines on safe excreta and sewage disposal aimed at addressing the challenges of open defecation in the country.
“The community based intervention on control of Open Defecation programme as well as the Clean and Green Programme of the Ministry are aimed among other things, at promoting the provision of safe and adequate toilets across the country, particularly in public places and ensur- ing proper excreta management in order to end open defecation in Nigeria by 2025.”
He disclosed that the theme for this year’s World Toilet Day: ‘’Sustainable Sanitation and Climate Change,” focuses on drawing attention to adverse impacts of climate change on sanitation systems.
Abubakar said the theme was quite apt as it draws attention to the fact that climate change is getting worse, as flood, drought, and rising sea levels are threatening sanitation systems.
“It also underscores the necessity for technologically sound structures to be put in place for containment, collection and treatment of human waste for proper waste management and sanitary hygiene practices,”he said.