United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) confirmed on Wednesday that record of open defecation in Abuja, Benue and other north central states is high, possibly above other states in other geopolitical zones.
It disclosed that, out of 47 million people that practice open defecation in Nigeria, 16 million of them (53.9 percent) live in north central states.
This was contained in a paper presented by UNICEF specialist on Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), Bioye Ogunjobi, at a media dialogue held in Calabar, on Wednesday.
The media dialogue which was sponsored by UKaid and European Union, was organised to sensitise media professionals, civil rights groups and other stakeholders on the menace of open defecation and solicit their support the end open defecation.
He equally disclosed that 21.8 percent of open defecation cases are found in north east. 28 percent cases recorded in South West, 10.3 percent in North West, 22.4 percent in South East and 17.9 percent in South South states.
He disclosed that Nigeria ranks second among countries practicing open defecation globally following the report of 2018 WASH National Outcome Routine Mapping (WASH NORM) survey which indicated that 24 percent of its population practice open defecation.
He also revealed that open defecation has economic, social and health impact on national development, as Nigeria looses about N455 billion (1.3%) of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP), to poor sanitation and open defecation.
In addition to that, more than 100, 000 children under the age of five die each year due to diarrhoea, of which 90 percent is directly attributed to unsafe water and sanitation.
The Acting Programme Manager, Cross River State Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency, Eyo Offiong, in his presentation, confirmed that the state government and development partners have helped in the fight against open defecation in the state.
He said the collective effort of the stakeholders led to the declaration of six Local Government Areas in the state Open Defecation Free (ODF), with more communities on the line of being declared open defecation free.
He however cautioned travellers passing through the ODF communities to be aware of the situation and avoid being punished by the community task force officials that are enforcing the law.
Head, Child Rights Information Bureau, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, Olumide Osanyipeju, in his welcome remarks, appealed to participants to use the opportunity of the meeting to acquaint themselves with knowledge and capacity to educate the public on WASH and open defecation.
He said the recent decision by the Federal Government to declare state of emergency on WASH Nigeria and launch of ODF campaign strategy was part of effort to jump-start Nigeria’s journey towards ending open defecation.