As Nigeria joins the world to mark the 2021 World Toilet Day, United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) has lamented the increasing interest of some Nigerians for open defecation irrespective of the dangers to the environment and health.
For instance, the UN Agency confirmed that its data indicated that Kwara, Plateau, and Ebonyi states have the highest rate of open defecation, while Abia, Zamfara, and Akwa Ibom states have the lowest rate of open defecation.
It also acknowledged the fact that there has been some progress on ending open defecation, with 71 out of Nigeria’s 774 local government areas now declared ‘open defection-free’, indicating a significant rise from 18 local governments in 2019.
It noted that the states with the highest number of ‘open defecation-free’ LGAs are Katsina, Jigawa and Benue with 21, 18 and 9 local governments, respectively.
Howbeit, the UN Agency said Nigeria is making some progress in improving access to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) services to its population, with 75 per cent of Nigerians having access to basic drinking water services indicating a rise from 70 per cent in 2019.
It also observed that access to sanitation (toilet and handwashing facilities) has also increased modestly, from 44 per cent to 46 per cent over the same period.
Meanwhile, the UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins, in his reactions said, “It’s clear that more needs to be done to ensure that all Nigerians have access to safe toilets and that we shift closer to ending open defecation across the country.
“With the ‘Clean Nigeria Campaign’, we are making strong efforts to achieve that, but the whole country needs to put their full weight behind this campaign. We cannot afford to fail. Ending open defecation is crucial to making progress in so many other areas, including health.
“However, there is a clear commitment by the Nigerian government to helping the population move away from the practice of open defecation, a move that would help support better health outcomes for all, including especially children.
“The importance of adequate and safe sanitation and proper hand hygiene practices cannot be overstated. It helps prevent illnesses that impact families’ livelihoods, and more importantly, take the lives of far too many children. We can and must achieve an open defecation-free Nigeria by 2025.”
Recall that in November 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari declared a state of emergency in the Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) sector and launched a national campaign tagged ‘Clean Nigeria: Use the Toilet’ to jump-start the country’s journey towards becoming open defecation-free by 2025.