By KATO P. LADAN, Kaduna
Nigeria’s development has been largely impacted by open defecation which has led to the loss of about N455 billion Gross Domestic Product, (GDP) yearly due to poor sanitation, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund, (UNICEF).
UNICEF, Communication Specialist Dr. Geoffrey Njoku who disclosed this in Kano on Monday at a 2-day Media Dialogue on Sanitation tagged: “Clean Nigeria: Use the Toilet” Campaign, organized by UNICEF in collaboration with the Child Rights Information Bureau, (CRIB), Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, said now is the time to stop the trend in the country.
According to him, Nigeria is ranked second among countries practicing open defecation in the world after India, adding that findings from the 2018 Water Sanitation Hygiene (WASH) National Outcome Routine Mapping (WASH NORM) survey, showed that 24 per cent of the country’s population (47 million people) practice open defecation, while 33 million more use unimproved toilets.
He explained that open defecation has an economic, social and health impact on national development, pointing out that over 100,000 children under five years of age die each year due to diarrhea of which 90 per cent is directly attributed to unsafe water and sanitation.
He said the Federal Ministry of Water Resources (FMWR) with support from UNICEF Nigeria and other development partners, and in partnership with inter-ministerial agencies, civil society organizations, private sector, and the media, and the people of Nigeria, is currently leading the “Clean Nigeria: Use the Toilet” campaign to end open defecation by 2025 and achieve universal access to safely managed sanitation.
The UNICEF Communication Specialist gave a percentage of population practicing open defecation accros the geopolitical zones of the country with North-Central having the highest population of 53.9 per cent, followed by South-West 28.0 per cent. Others include: South-East 22.4 per cent, North-East 21.8 per cent, South-South 17.9 per cent, and North-West 10.3 per cent respectively.
In his remarks, Deputy Director, Head Child Rights information Bureau, (CRIB), Mr. Olumide Osanyipeju, said that the Federal Government declared a state of emergency on WASH Nigeria and launched an Open Defecation Free, (ODF), campaign strategy to jump-start the country’s journey towards ending open defecation.
He disclosed that the “Clean Nigeria: Use the Toilet” campaign is one of the most ambitious behavior-change campaigns in Nigeria with a strong citizen/public engagement component 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.
According to him, sanitation is essential to the survival and development of children, as it can reduce the severity and impact of malnutrition as well as help in reducing the spread of intestinal worms, promote dignity and boost safety, particularly among women and children.
“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, diarrhea, worm infestation and under nutrition. We most double our current efforts in order to end open defecation by 2030,” he added.
Speaking further, the Deputy Director of CRIB, said the campaign with the media to end open defecation is targeting three states namely: Kano, Osun and Cross River is aimed at creating awareness about “Clean Nigeria: Use the Toilet” campaign, and mobilize resources to sustain the national movement.
He enjoined the media practitioners at the event to arm themselves with in-depth knowledge of WASH as this would enable them write factual stories, make the stories compelling by adding an unusual angle to them.