Health

July 2, 2019

In Mile 2, Apapa, open defecation thrives

Oshodi-Apapa expressway

As tanker drivers, others lament lack of toilet facilities

By Chioma Obinna

When the report of the 2018 WASH National Outcome Routine Mapping, (WASH NORM) Survey declared that 47 million Nigerians defecate in the open and that Nigeria ranks No.1 in Africa and is 2nd in the world among countries practising open defecation, some Nigerians dismissed it as   mere statistics devoid of empirical evidence.

But investigations by Good Health Weekly around  Mile 2 and Apapa areas of Lagos prove the report right.

Open defecation is widespread in these areas. From Orile to Maza-Maza and 2nd Rainbow stretch of the Oshodi/Apapa Expressway to Coconut, it is commonplace.  The absurdity in the practice by tanker drivers, touts, motor park boys and traders etc leaves much to be desired.  In the mentioned areas, public toilet is luxury.

 Oshodi-Apapa expressway

Anyone pressed anywhere along this stretch there is only one commercial public toilet within reach.

The overused convenience located at Mile 2 Bus Stop adjacent the Benin City bus terminal, daily serves thousands of commuters, travellers among other users.

Residents and workers  with offices around this axis and passers-by  often have no choice than to eas themselves by the roadside or in between the road on the culverts.

It is common sight to see a full grown adult defecating openly even as motorists and other commuters go about their normal activities.

The stretch from Mile 2 Bridge to Tin Can  has become an eyesore as a result.  The routes have remained in the news for many wrong reasons including traffic gridlock , armed robbery, pickpocketing among others.

Passers-by say the indiscriminate disposal of faeces has become more worrisome.  Commutters driving or walking around the vicinity usually have their hearts in their mouths, not knowing if they would step on some discarde excrement or other dangerous objects among the heaps of refuse littering the road.

Situation is now so bad that disposable plates popularly known  as  take-away plates are used to defecate.

Even the uncompleted railway project along the axis is not spared.  All  parts of the rails are filled with faeces.  Yet people  eat and sleep there.

When it rains, passers by  navigate through the flood andmix  with the faeces as they head for their  destinations.    The beautifully built gutters have become septic tanks.  A visit to the area by Good Health Weekly  shortly after a downpour, revealed that the stench from the gutters as a result of  faeces and flood around the area was disgusting.

Some truck drivers and their assistants who spoke told harrowing experiences.

“We are going through  difficult time and defecating openly is the least of our problems,” Musa a trailer driver stated.

“You are talking about faeces, have you asked us how we sleep and eat on this road?  We eat, defecate and sleep here.   In this smelly environment, we must eat whatever we see; we don’t bathe because we cannot go back to our homes.

“If we say we want to go to the toilet, where do we go?   How many public toilets have you seen along the road? ” he queried.

Another driver who simply identified himself as Lekan said: There are faeces everywhere because people have to eat and if they eat, they must defecate. When you are permanently on the road and there are no public toilets, where else do you defecate except on the road or nearby bush?  We cannot trek back to Mile 2.”

At the popular Benin Bus terminal at Mile 2, some travellers who also decried the environmental condition of the area told Good Health Weekly that open defection was no longer a new thing in the area.

One of them, Mrs. Edna Uwaje said: “Many people in these areas no longer have shame.  I cannot use the public toilet because of my safety.  We have lots of armed robbery cases around here. As a lady, you may be harassed. The security here is poor.”

Uwaje, however, added that the government should provide more toilet facilities in the park and make them free.

“The fee attached to the toilet is too much and there are not enough here.  Many people cannot come and queue for just one toilet compartment but if they are many and strategically located at different locations here, I believe more people will use the toilets,” she said.

Confirming Uwaje’s position, another woman who is a petty trader told Good Health weekly, that there are few mobile toilets around but most of the operators are not friendly.  Further findings revealed that people are defecating in the open due to the high charges.

“This is the only commercial toilet at this terminal; people don’t use it because of the high charges. To pass urine attracts N50 while to defecate is N100, another traveller, Mr. Ikhazobor said.  The activities of these tanker drivers and others who defecate in the open contribute to the high percentage of people practising open defecation across the South West geopolitical zone of the country.

 

Implications:

Studies have shown that careless handling of faeces is dangerous to health. One gramme of fresh faeces from an infected person can contain around 106 viral pathogens, 106–108 bacterial pathogens, 104 protozoan cysts or oocysts, and 10–104 helminth eggs.

A medical epidemiologist, Dr. Ope Osibogun, said open defecation can lead to diarrheal diseases in children which make them vulnerable to malnutrition, stunting and opportunistic infection such as pneumonia.

It exposes members of the public to various infections such as cholera, schistosomiasis, trachoma, shigella, typhoid, hepatitis A, polio, amoebic dysentery, giardiasis, ascariasis, hookworm infection, tapeworm infection.

According to the UNICEF Water and Sanitation, Specialist, Mr. Bioye Ogunjobi  during a two-day Media Dialogue on Clean Nigeria: Use The Toilet Campaign supported by the European Union and Ukaid , Nigeria needs not less than two million toilets annually between 2019 and 2025 to achieve the target of universal poor sanitation.  Nigeria’s current delivery of improved toilet is approximately 160,000per year.

Stating that hygiene and water are responsible for the frequent episodes of diarrhoea and other water-related diseases,  Ogunjobi said over 100,000 children under age five die yearly due to diarrhoea of which 90 per cent is directly attributed to unsafe water and sanitation.

The practice of open defecation has an economic, social and health impact on national development as Nigeria loses about N1.3 per cent (N455 billion) of her GDP annually to poor sanitation and a third of that cost is as a result of open defecation.

According to the WASH NORM report, one in four Nigerians defecates in the open, while one in two persons in the North Central defecates in the open. Out of the 47 million practising open defection, 16 million are from the North Central.

In the views of the Acting Coordinator, Use the Toilet The Campaign,   Federal Ministry of Water Resources, Mrs. Chizoma Opara Nigeria has ranked second globally among 10 countries with the highest number of open defecation since 2015.

Opara said to get Nigeria out of the situation, the country under the campaign has established a national Road Map to end OD by 2025.  “Already, Nigeria is studying the strategy being implemented by India to get over 550 million of her population out of OD.

Disclosing that only 13 local governments out of the 774 Local governments have been free from open defecation, she said the campaign and other partners have concluded arrangements to scale up the programme.

On the fees being chargeon public toilets, she said for the toilets to be functional a stipend must be attached to it to sustain it as well as pay those maintaining and running the place. “We are looking at a Public-Private Partnership arrangement to provide toilets across the communities. “We have started discussing with some private organizations on how they can take up WASH as social cooperate responsibility. We are also building a business around toilets,” she stated.

However, although President Mohammadu Buhari recently declared an emergency in water sanitation, health watchers are of the view that without making access to toilets in public places including markets, motor parks and highways, as well as creating awareness to change the behaviour of the people,  the dream of the country to be open defecation free may be a mere dream.