Mr. Zaid Jurji, the Chief, Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) for UNICEF have stressed the need for private sector involvement to end open defecation in the country.
Jurji said this at the Private Sector Forum on Sanitation organised by Private Sector in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (OPS-WASH) in Abuja on Monday.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the theme of the programme is “Coordinating Indigenous Private Sector Initiatives to End Open Defecation in Nigeria.”
The WASH chief said that the private sector had a huge, yet unexplored potential in development, noting that there was a need to harness that potential to achieve national good, simultaneously with business successes.
He added that the private sector brought a wide spectrum of skills and expertise needed to tackle the issue of open defecation, saying that
any country that was seriously needed to partner with the private sector if not such a country would not be able to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Jurji said that the private sector was the engine of the Nigerian economy, “and we are happy that the sector is streaming with aid to provide total solutions for WASH.
“Nigeria has solutions but the rate at which we are doing it is not enough, we are beaten by demography but we need to increase the speed at which we move.
“Without resources, it will be difficult t realise the objectives of the WASH sector.”
UNICEF Nigeria Representative, Ms Pernille Ironside, said “Nigeria loses N455 billion annually to poor sanitation due to open defecation.”
Ironside said that the important challenge revealed by the Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene National Outcome Routine Mapping (WASH NORM)
was that 47 million Nigerians were still practicing open defecation.
According to her, such a report puts Nigeria at the top of the list of countries where this remains an issue since India has stepped down from this unenviable position recently.
“These statistics are alarming, so it very important to come together to co-create solutions to tackle the challenges at hand that is affecting the health and well-being of Nigerians and impeding economic growth,” she said.
The representative added that a recent data from the WASH NORM was that only 16 per cent of schools and six per cent of health facilities had access to basic water and sanitation services.
She said that the report also revealed that average 68 per cent of people living in rural areas only have access to four liters of water per capita per day.
Ironside said that the report stated that “people from the poorest households in Nigeria are 10 times less likely to have access to basic water, sanitation and hygiene services than those from the richest households.
“Clean water, basic toilets, and good hygiene practices are essential for the survival and development of children in the world and especially Nigeria, irrespective of their background.
“When children have access to safe water, toilets and soap for handwashing at school and at home, they have a better environment to study, to learn and to realise their full potential.
“Adults are also able to increase their level of productivity if they are not losing time and money in dealing with the consequences of inadequate access to clean water and sanitation facilities.”
She explained that Nigeria recorded some successes after the launch of the Partnership for Expanded Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (PEWASH) programme in 2016, aimed at achieving WASH SDGs by 2030.
She said that the rate at which these successes were realised would not enable the country to meet its 2030 targets “because at
this stage, what was needed was ‘Quantum Leap’ to accelerate progress toward the SDGs, not linear progress.”
Ironside said that engaging the private sector was one big step toward exploring hidden local resources to address local challenges and create local solutions.