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Nigeria among top 5 open defecators globally

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By Mercy Kelani

About 48 million people practice open defecation in Nigeria, with 18M children.

According to the 2021 Water Sanitation and Hygiene National Outcome Routine Mapping (WASHNORM 2021), it was reported that the Nigerian sanitation status depicted that there are 48 million people practicing open defecation as well as with 18 million children. Thus, the report indicated that about 95 million Nigerians have no access to sanitation. Also, 70 percent of schools are operated without sanitation services, 88 percent of health care facilities are operated without basic sanitation while 80 percent of motor parks and public market also lack access to basic sanitation.

As is widely known, open defecation is the method of dumping human feces in public places such as forests, gutters, open water bodies, streets, bushes and any open spaces apart from toilets. The consequences of this action is worrisome. In Nigeria, 23 percent of 48 million people were reported to lack access to a toilet, making these people to defecate, without caring, in open spaces. Existing inequalities have indicated that rural areas are more affected due to the impoverished state of the poor, compared to their rich counterparts.

This act causes diseases that lead to death & disability in children.

For the past 15 years, Nigeria has been ranked among the top 5 open defecators across the globe: 5th position in 2003, 2nd position in 2015 and 1st position in 2023 in contrast to the total removal of open defecation in India in 2019. According to United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organization (WHO) and Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP), it was stated that the following countries are known to be the world largest open defecators: Nigeria, 47 million; Indonesia, 17 million; Niger, 16 million; and Pakistan 16 million.

A UNICEF report asserted that 102 out of 774 LGA are certified as Open Defecation Free (ODF) in Nigeria: Katsina achieved 74 percent ODF in 2023 while FCT has no ODF in its LGA. In 2022, Katsina had ODF in 24 out of 34 LGA, Jigawa achieved its ODF, Kano emerged with 11 LGA for ODF, Benue achieved with 9 LGA of ODF, Cross River 6 LGA, Bauchi 7 LGA, Osun 1 LGA and Zamfara 3 LGA. On economic cost, diseases such as diarrhoea which causes death and disability are prominent among children with typhoid and hepatitis.

By 2059, Nigeria would have accomplished Open Defecation Free (ODF).

Diseases such as cholera outbreaks, neonatal, infant deaths, infections and other hospital-acquired sicknesses are due to open defecation. Annually, N455 million, an equivalent 1.3 percent of the GDP, is lost as a result of poor access to sanitation, productivity and healthcare services. Malnutrition, dropout, absenteeism leading to poor education, low productivity, degradation and contamination are the effects of poor sanitation. The federal government inaugurated PEWASH, the Partnership for Expanded Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene, in 2016 to accomplish Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 6.

As one of the 17 SDG established in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly, this initiative is launched to ensure availability and sustainable management of sanitation and clean water for all. In addition, in 2016, the federal government inaugurated the National Roadmap to End ODF, and in 2018, there was the launch of a National Action Plan and Commitment to eradicate open defecation. In the same year, there was a Presidential Declaration of a State of Emergency in WASH. Ogochukwu Chisom Adimorah, the UNICEF Nigeria WASH Specialist, stated at the Media Dialogue on Open Defecation in Borno State that in 2059, (36 years to this time) Nigeria is ready to accomplish ODF.

To achieve ODF, Nigeria’s budget must be increased 3 times.

Adimorah asserted that in 3 years from now (2025), Nigeria will achieve the National ODF Road Map, consequently, it needs to accomplish at least 224 ODF LGA annually between 2023 and 2025 or achieve 84 LGA annually until 2030. She added that the budget needs to be increased 3 times by the government. Additionally, Adimorah highlighted that business case of sanitation, low awareness of health, and low participation of the private sector serve as impediments for ODF to be achieved. Emphatically, she opined that collaboration and coordination with other sectors like education, environment, health, will enhance good policy and accountability to address inequality for women, rural dwellers and the poor.

Related Link

UNICEF: Website

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