Gyang Bere, Jos
For several decades, open defecation in rural communities of Plateau State has been a normal phenomenon among children, women and the aged persons. Dalyop Pam, 65, said most communities in those days had designated lands, valleys, mountains, rivers and open fields where people went for early morning defecation.
He explained that there were occasions when daughters-in-law met with their fathers-in-law at the scene of open defecation in the morning.
Some of the communities because of respect for the aged had their designated area while women had their open field. Some of the communities consider the practice as a taboo but some do not see anything wrong with it.
However, available statistics of the stench are undeniable in rural communities in the state. The menace prompted the state government to partner with European Union (EU) and UNICIEF to fight against the usual practice that has inflicted epidemic among children.
Besides a recent nationwide appraisal by the water, sanitation and hygiene, the UNICIEF revealed a deplorable and depressing situation. It is pertinent to note that most villagers in the 17 local governments are highly susceptible to epidemics because open defecation among the people is rampant.
Recently, the EU and UNICIEF took the fight to the Lo-Gwom Kwi community in Riyom Local Government where most households do not have toilets. Sadly, some of the households who have the toilets prefer to go to open fields or hills to defecate. Some even defecate inside farms due for harvesting, leaving the owners with epidemics.
Head of delegation of the EU to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Ketil Karlsen, expressed regret over the practices of open defecation, particularly among school children. The EU and UNICIEF in collaboration with government provide a solar-powered borehole project and school sanitation facility at Lo-Gwom Kwi, which will serve the village with clean and portable drinking water.
The facilities were also provided at the Government Secondary School, Kwi, where a motorised borehole was provided for the students and a modern toilet to improve on the sanitation condition of the community Karlsen said: “We know that there are challenges in the country.
“We know that there are issues around conflict, economy and issues of improving transparency and reducing corruption. These are the priority of the federal and state governments and that is exactly where we are helping out Nigeria.
“We need to secure clean water, we need to secure better health and of course we need to stop open defecation. Now that Plateau State Government has passed the Water Law, we will commence action and that is our commitment.”
The EU cautioned the students that they must stop open defecation and use wisely the toilets provided and admonished them to always wash their hands after using the toilet to avoid epidemics: “EU is willing to partner with UNICEF to dig boreholes across rural communities in Plateau, Nigeria and Africa, and to stop open defecation for the sake of providing drinking water; to curtail outbreak of diseases.”
UNICEF representative in Nigeria, Mr Peter Hawkins, said: “Look after this water project, not only for yourself but for your children and your future generations. Look after it and sustain it; for no one will come back to help you to do that, you have to help yourselves.
“You must also stop open defecation to protect this water from being contaminated so that this community will be free of epidemics. You should use the toilets that have been contracted for you.”
Governor Simon Lalong remarked: “Our success story in the rural component comprises the drilling of both motorized and hand pump boreholes, construction of ventilated improved latrines. This synergy with the EU has further spurred us to creating the enabling environment for increased partnership with our development partners.”
Worried by the danger associated with open defecation, chairman of Riyom LG, Emmanuel Jugul, banned open defecation: “I am going to set up a committee to ensure that every household has a toilet. Any house that fails to construct a latrine toilet will be taken to court.”
UNICEF WASH expert, Mr Bioye Ogunjobi, said 47 million Nigerians, which represents 24.4 per cent of the population, still practices open defecation. He explained that 11 per cent of Nigerian children suffered from diarrhoea and cholera in the last six months in most parts of the country due to open defecation.