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Abuja – The UNICEF says an estimated 33 million Nigerians still practice open defecation in different parts of the country.

Dr Suomi Sakai, UNICEF’s Country Representative and Chief Ambassador, said this at the commemoration of the World Sanitation Day on Tuesday in Abuja.

A man defecates in a canal at Oshodi. Photo by Akinbuli Oluwatobiloba

“The most worrisome of all the unsanitary practices is the high rate of open defecation practice in the country.

“It is estimated that about 33 million Nigerians defecate in the open, depositing about 1.7m tonnes of faeces into the environment annually,’’ she said.

Sakai said that the development had resulted in a high level of contamination of the environment in which garbage and faeces often find their way into water resources.

She stressed the need for awareness creation among the populace and the imperative of imbibing sanitary practices for improved health and socio-economic well-being of the citizenry.

The Chief Ambassador, however, commended the Federal Ministry of Environment for providing a viable platform for discussing and analysing environmental sanitation issues for sustainable development.

According to her, the occasion provides an opportunity for the review of commitment and support to improve the status of environmental sanitation in the country.

She said that the theme of the celebration which is “Cleanliness: Gateway to Healthy Living,’’ was timely and appropriate, considering the present poor environmental sanitation practices and its consequences on the life of the people.

She maintained that high morbidity and mortality rates in the country, prompted by cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery and typhoid, all sanitation-related diseases, were consequences of poor sanitation and hygiene practice.

“Children under five are the most vulnerable to the effects of poor sanitation and hygiene in the country.

“ It is estimated that that nearly 200,000 children under five years die annually due to diarrhoea while respiratory infections kill another 240,000 young children every year,’’ she added.

Sakai explained that improving the disposal of human excreta and stopping open defecation could reduce illnesses by 34 per cent, stressing that when combined with hand washing, the impact could be doubled.

The Country Representative recalled that the UN General Assembly had passed a resolution urging member countries to redouble efforts to close the sanitation gap.

She said that the resolution tagged, “Sustainable Sanitation: The Five-Year-Drive to 2015’’, would focus on mobilising political will as well as financial and technical resources for achieving the MDG sanitation target.

She said the resolution had also called for an end to open defecation.

Sakai called on the Federal Government to invest in the sanitation sector to improve the economic development of the country. (NAN)

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