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48 million Nigerians still defecate openly

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By Usman Oladimeji

Toilets and full sanitation systems are not adequately funded.

The Federal Government has highlighted that a significant number of Nigerians, approximately 48 million, continue to engage in open defecation and many individuals still rely on the bush and water bodies as their primary methods of excreta disposal. Minister of Environment, Balarabe Abbas stated the lack of proper sanitary facilities in numerous institutions. In some cases, these facilities are either non-functional or being misused. He made this statement while speaking at the joint press briefing held in Abuja to mark World Toilet Day (WTD) organised by the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Water Resources and Sanitation.

Abbas added that disposing of sewage is a major problem as most urban areas lack adequate sewerage systems and safe sewage collection. Today, November 19 marks the WTD used to call attention to the plight of the billions of people around the world who lack access to properly maintained toilets. This year’s theme – ‘Accelerating Change’ highlights the need for every industry and every Nigerian to have a role in addressing the sanitation challenges. Despite the health benefits of using a sanitary defecation space, toilets and the sanitation systems that support them are not adequately funded, mismanaged, or abandoned in several areas globally, including Nigeria.

4.2 billion people worldwide lack access to safe toilets.

Meanwhile, this comes with dire repercussions for health, economics, and the environment, especially in the most impoverished and vulnerable communities. Currently, around 4.2 billion people worldwide lack access to safe toilets. Many public and private institutions lack sanitary facilities, and where they do exist, they are either inaccessible or being misused. The majority of urban areas lack sewerage facilities and proper sewage collection. As a result, disposal becomes a major issue, as many bodies of water, including rivers and streams, become a collection point for sewage and wastewater.

Furthermore, the Minister warned that women, girls, and other marginalized groups are particularly at risk due to the sanitation problem. He claims that the high incidence of diarrheal sickness, the second leading cause of death in children under the age of five, is a direct result of inadequate excretions and sewage disposal. Inadequate toilet facilities is a contributing factor in the cyclical nature of cholera epidemics in certain states in the country. However, he noted that this could be avoided if everyone practiced proper and safe excreta disposal.

100 million Nigerians lack access to basic sanitation.

However, he assured the public that the administration is working to solve the country’s sanitation problems and improve the way human waste is managed. On his part, the Minister of Water Resources and Sanitation, Joseph Utsev claimed that over 40 percent of wastewater is dumped into the environment without treatment. Utsev asserted that some farmers were using untreated wastewater for irrigation purposes and consuming the resulting product. According to him, more than 100 million Nigerians lack access to basic sanitation, and an estimated 48 million engage in open defecation, placing the country among those with the highest rates of this unhealthy behaviour.

Utsev said the government understands that access to adequate Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) services is a vital determinant for the socio-economic development of any nation with consequences for human capital outcomes such as early childhood survival, health and educational attainment. In addition, there is a clear link between the prevalence of sanitation-related diseases, subpar educational performance, and lost productivity, and the prevalence of open defecation caused by a lack of toilet facilities. This is in addition to the other negative outcomes associated with open defecation, like lack of dignity, inconveniencing, and even violent situations for women and girls.

40,000 communities in 105 LGAs have all reached ODF status.

He explained that in order to get the country closer to its goals within the context of the global commitment, the government has begun interventions through WASH programmes and initiatives. Communities and LGAs around the country are making significant strides toward achieving the Open Defecation Free status (ODF). It’s worth noting that more than 40,000 communities in 105 LGAs have all reached ODF status. While this is an optimistic move in the right direction, he stressed that much more work is required to eliminate open defecation in Nigeria by the 2025 target date.

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