Estimated 120m lack proper sanitation
By Chioma Obinna & Gabriel Olawale
On this year’s World Toilet Day, November 19, the reality of accessing sanitary toilets remained a mirage for 28.5 per cent of the Nigerian population (51.3 million persons) who have no access to sanitary toilet facilities., according to UNICEF.
When it’s time to go to the toilet, this group of people have no option than to defecate in the open, an act that threatens their health, dignity, safety and puts them at risk of public health hazards.
Women, girls and younger children with no access to improved toilet facilities at home or in school are especially vulnerable. Beyond direct health risks, shame and potential violence are constant reality for them when seeking a place to defecate.
According to the World Health Organisation, WHO, 1 in 4 Nigerians defecate openly creating a medium for potential transmission of the wild polio virus, cholera and hepatitis amongst other infectious diseases because they have no access to adequate toilet facilities.
Additional data presented by UNICEF showed that an estimated 120 million people in the country lack access to improved sanitation facilities, or facilities that hygienically separate human waste from human contact.
The economic impact of unsafe water, poor sanitation and hygiene depletes the Nigerian economy by almost the equivalent of 1.3 percent of the Gross Domestic Product, GDP, while 124, 000 under fives are lost annually as a result of diarrhoea.
As Nigeria joined the rest of the world to mark the day themed “Toilets and Job” calls have been made for the circulation and sustenance of proper hygiene promotion messages to become a social norm in addition to provision of improved sanitation facilities.
In Lagos, stakeholders demanded provision of functional and sanitary toilets in schools and other public places across the city.
Provide sanitary toilets in schools, public places — Save The Children
Addressing thousands of school children in Shomolu and Bariga areas of Lagos during an event organised by Save the Children (an NGO committed to welfare of children) to mark the day, Behaviour Change Programme Manager for Save the Children, Mrs. Amaka Efionu, said to end open defecation and attain the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, target on sanitation, government and all stakeholders must come together to increase functional toilets in the various communities particularly in schools and public places.
“Toilets play a crucial role in creating a strong economy. Lack of toilet facilities at work and home has severe consequences, including poor health leading to absenteeism, reduced concentration, exhaustion, and decreased productivity,” Efionu explained.
She said availability of functional toilets would encourage behavioural change in sanitation and hygiene, noting that Lagos has 570 public toilets serving 21 million people.
Efionu said in partnership with the Lagos State Government, the efficacy of the WHO/UNICEFs 7- point plan for the management and control of diarrhoea in children under the age of five, was being put to test.
“We need functional toilets in the sense that the toilets will not just be a physical facility but one that will meet the needs of the population with water available at every point in time, child- friendly and easy to flush after use. By making these things available to the citizens of the state, we are saying no to open defecation. In no distant time we will be able to say Shomolu and Bariga are free from open defecation.”
Representative of the Ministry of Local Government and Community Affairs, Mr Bello Akeem who spoke on the importance of toilets said: “We are promoting toilets to put a stop to diarrhoea and ultimately stop deaths from diarrhoea. It has been on record that if we use toilets in the right way, we can prevent incidences of diarrhoea by one third, that is 1 out of 3 chances of contacting diarrhoea would have been prevented. It is also important to have hand washing facility,” he added.
Adopt regular handwashing habits — LASG, RB
At a forum organised by RB West Africa, makers of Harpic, to mark the World Toilet Day 2016, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, urged Lagos residents to adopt regular hand washing habits even as he advocated improved sanitary facilities. Ambode, represented by Special Adviser on Environment, Mr. Babatunde Hunpe, observed that it was a challenge providing adequate amenities such as water and public sanitation in the state due to its large population.
He remarked that there were 570 public toilets sited at various locations across the city, but lamented that they were inadequate to meet the needs of the huge population estimated at 22 million.
He said the theme was appropriate because awareness creation about the havoc of open defection and urination could minimise the menace as well as create job opportunities.
In his contribution, the Managing Director, RB West Africa, Mr. Rahul Murgai regretted that Nigeria still ranks 5th in the world among countries where open defecation is a major problem.
Murgai hinted that as reinforcement by Harpic’s Vision and commitment to arrest the problem of lack of access to sanitation and open defecation, there was ongoing partnership with the Lagos State Ministry of Environment that led to upgrading of toilet facilities within Apapa LGA in the state,
On her part, Marketing Manager Harpic, Bamigbaiye-Elatuyi Omotola said Harpic’s toilet hygiene programme in Nigeria is a scaled initiative across 16 cities and reaches over one million homes annually to educate people about the importance of good toilet hygiene.