By Chioma Obinna & Victoria Ojeme
LAGOS— As the globe commemorates World Environment Day, the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, has said that reduction in open defecation will significantly reduce diarrhoea cases in children under five by 90 per cent.
UNICEF had in its 2012 report revealed that an estimated 34 million Nigerians practice open defecation and ranked the country amongst top five countries in the world with largest number of people defecating in the open.
It, however, noted a marked improvement in the situation as no fewer than 34 million Nigerians now use toilets.
In statement issued in Abuja to mark this year’s World Environment Day, UNICEF Nigeria Country Representative, Jean Gough, declared open defecation as a serious threat to public health, especially during flooding.
According to Gough, “90 per cent of diarrhoea cases in children under 5 are related to unsafe water and sanitation. Open defecation causes contamination to water bodies and is a serious threat to public health especially during flooding.
“Ending open defecation also means saving the lives of thousands of Nigerian children dying annually from preventable water and sanitation related diseases.”
Gough further disclosed that UNICEF’s partnership with relevant government Ministries, Departments and Agencies, NGOs, as well as donors such as European Union and UK Aid in the implementation of Community Led Total Sanitation, CLTS, in 30 states in Nigeria, showed that more than 4,000 Open Defecation Free, ODF, communities with over 2.5 million inhabitants were now using toilets.
He said with continuous support from governments and other partners in scaling up this approach, more Nigerians would live in open defecation free communities.
“We know that by improving sanitation, we can improve child survival as well as the environment.
“Although current sanitation coverage is low at 31 percent, successful models like the Community Led Total Sanitation, CLTS, approach have already demonstrated that it is possible to achieve quick progress in access to sanitation.”