The federal government said that about 25 per cent of people living in the country still defecate openly, insisting that this had led to a high rate of diarrhoea and is the second highest killer of children in Nigeria.
Nigeria is populated by over 200 million people, and according to the Minister of Environment, Mallam Balarabe Abbas has about 48 million people still practising open defecation.
Speaking at a joint press briefing of the Ministries of Environment, and Water Resources and Sanitation to highlight the activities scheduled for the World Toilet Day, Abbas said this year’s theme: ‘Accelerating Change’ “is quite apt as it inspires every individual to take personal action to help improve toilets and sanitation systems. It underscores the fact that every sector and every Nigerian can do something and has a role to play in tackling the sanitation crisis.”
He noted that “toilets are a foundation stone of public health and they play an important role in protecting the environment. They effectively and hygienically remove human waste away from the home, reducing the exposure our loved ones have to human waste and diseases.
“Unfortunately, toilets and the sanitation systems that support them are underfunded, poorly managed or neglected in many parts of the world including Nigeria with devastating consequences for health, economics and the environment particularly in the poorest and most marginalized communities. Right now, about 4.2 billion people in the world live without safe toilets and about 48 million Nigerians still practice open defecation, as many people still use the bush and water bodies as their regular means for excreta disposal.
“Many institutions, public and private, do not have sanitary facilities, and where they exist, they are either not functioning or misused. Most urban areas do not have sewerage systems and a safe collection of sewage. Therefore, disposal becomes a huge challenge as many of the water bodies, including rivers and streams, become a repository for sewage and wastewater.”
He added that: “The sanitation crisis poses a threat to our natural environment and the health of citizens, particularly women, girls, and other vulnerable groups. One of the major consequences of poor excreta and sewage disposal is the high rate of diarrhoea disease, which is the second cause of high morbidity and mortality rates among children under the age of five. The persistent re-occurrence of annual incidences of cholera outbreaks in some of our states are also manifestations of inadequate toilet facilities. Yet this could also be prevented through safe excreta disposal by every individual.”
Abbas revealed that: “The Federal Government of Nigeria is committed to addressing the sanitation challenges in the country and ensuring proper management of excreta. This commitment is demonstrated by Mr. President’s declaration of a state of emergency on water, sanitation, and hygiene in the country and the signing of Executive Order No. 009 on Open Defecation Free Nigeria by 2025. 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, which will soon be presented to the Federal Executive Council for approval.
“The Federal Ministry of Environment is also continuing with its community-based intervention on the control of open defecation programme as well as the Clean and Green Programme aimed among others at promoting the provision of safe and adequate toilets across the country, particularly in public places and ensuring proper excreta management.”
He disclosed that modern public toilets have been provided in communities and markets across the Federation under these programmes. “To strengthen the capacity of our Environmental Health Officers, this year, the Ministry renewed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), India on technology transfer, technical assistance, capacity building and research development in areas of water, sanitation and environmental management. The CSE has conducted specialized training on affordable toilet designs and feacal sludge management and reuse for at least fifty (50) Environmental Health Officers and Sanitation Desk Officers across the 36 States’ Ministry of Environment including FCT.”
Abbas, while highlighting the activities to mark the day which is scheduled for next Tuesday, said. “I am using this opportunity to appeal to all National, State and Local Government stakeholders in environmental sanitation not only to do the talking but take practical steps and actions individually and collectively as agents of change to ensure everyone has access to toilets in their domain. Likewise, all commercial entities such as petrol stations, shopping malls, etc. are encouraged to launch functional toilet facilities for the public as part of their corporate social responsibilities.”
On his part, the Minister of Water Resources and Sanitation, Prof. Joseph Utsev said: “The Government recognizes that access to adequate Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) services is a critical factor for the socio-economic development of any nation with implications for human capital outcomes such as early childhood survival, health and educational attainment.
“In addition, the practice of open defecation due to the dearth of sanitation facilities is directly correlated with sanitation-related diseases, poor educational outcomes, and loss of productivity. This is beside such as other consequences such as the concomitant lack of dignity, inconvenience, and violence experienced by women and girls when practising open defecation.”
He said: “In recognition of the cross-cutting nature of the Government’s interventions, the Federal Ministry of Water Resources and Sanitation is collaborating with other partners under the auspices of the National Task Group on Sanitation (NTGS) in commemorating the 2023 World Toilet Day. The commemoration activities are targeted at mobilizing actions at all levels through building synergy to improve sustainable access to sanitation in the country. It is our target to reach every Nigerian with a message on safe toilets and sanitation systems in the course of these engagements. The modest achievements recorded through our interventions were made possible through the collaboration of partners. I will be remise without acknowledging their partnership and support for our initiatives in the sanitation and hygiene sector.”