UNICEF says presently, no fewer than 120 million people in Nigeria lack access to improved sanitation facilities, thereby exposing them to public health hazards.
Kannan Nadar, UNICEF’s Chief Officer in charge of Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), disclosed this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, in Abuja.
He said Nigeria needed an investment of N850 billion for households to construct 25 million toilets by 2025.
According to him, reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) target on Sanitation requires Nigeria to multiply her current efforts by fifteen.
He said that Nigeria could achieve its target of meeting the National Roadmap of Ending Open defecation by 2030, “if it puts policies in place to encourage behavioural change in sanitation and Hygiene.”
Mr. Nadar said that the agency had carried out a survey in some selected communities, and observed that there was a gap between knowledge and attitude in hygiene promotion practice.
“Such situation could be reduced with proper hygiene promotion messages,” he said.
He said 14,000 Nigerian communities have attained open defecation free status within the eight years of its intervention via the Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) Programme.
He noted that Nigeria was known for having sanitary inspectors, who carried out enforcement of hygiene practices.
“But the inspectors did not appear to have the needed encouragement; such practice should be encouraged by all, to reduce possible outbreak of preventable diseases,” he said.
According to him, Nigeria needs to scale up its hygiene promotion strategies to enable it become a social norm.
The UNICEF official, who said that the intervention was covering 200,000 communities, stated that poor persons were 36 times more likely to defecate in the open than rich individuals “due to the disproportionate distribution of wealth in the society.”
He challenged stakeholders to develop simple, better and cost effective messages that would enable more Nigerians change their behaviours towards hygiene promotion.
However, Nigeria being a signatory to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, needed to deliberately remove barriers to sanitation and hygiene problems in the country.
Ekiti has the highest number of residents, among Nigerian states, who defecate openly, two agencies have said.
The UNICEF and the European Union state that two in three Ekiti residents engage in open defecation.
According to a report jointly presented by the organisations at a two-day media networking and alliance building workshop on Water Sanitation and Hygiene held at Ijero Ekiti.
The report stated that of the state’s 2.7million population, 1.8million engage in the unhygienic practice.
The organisations said over 2.5 billion people lacked access to improved sanitation globally, out of which one billion were engaging in open defecation.
The UNICEF/EU delegation, led by Mohsena Islam, a Water Sanitation and Hygiene specialist from UNICEF, had earlier embarked on a field trip with Ekiti Media WASH group to Asasa and Temidire Olojofi farm settlements in Aramoko Ekiti, to assess compliance with the campaign against open defecation.
Mr. Mohsena disclosed that several achievements had been recorded through UNICEF/EU WASH programme in Ekiti, using Gbonyin and Ekiti West as pilot councils in advocacy for open defecation Free (ODF) and WASH.
“In Ekiti, an estimated number of 180,000 people are gaining access to good source of water through provision of hand pump boreholes,” he said.
”In the same way, 29,582 people in Ekiti have gained access to safe water through rehabilitation of 65 hand pumps in Gbonyin. 965 pupils from four schools now have access to child and gender friendly water supply.
“We have also brought improvement to 250 towns and communities in ODF by providing ten toilets per public.
“We have also provided technical supports in 313 communities, for them to know various ways to build and take ownership of low cost latrines and how to repair them in case of damage.
“Stakeholders should continue to step up sensitization and advocacy in rural areas on the need to key into the total eradication of open defecation, to forestall breakout of diseases.
“Advocacy for open defecation free in Ekiti and good water sanitation is yielding results.
“Enforcement in the past by CLTS coordinators had failed; we now use persuasion and people are gradually changing their perception,” he said.
In Ogun, the State Ministry of Health disclosed that over one million residents of the state engage in open defecation.
The ministry reports that the practice remains a major cause of Hepatitis, especially among children.
At a one-day Health Seminar organised by the National Association of Community Health Practitioners of Nigeria (NACHPN) recently in Abeokuta.
Olusola Afuape of the Department of Public Health, Ogun State Ministry of Health, explained that the figure represented 28.8 per cent of a total population of 3,751,140.
He lamented that the figure kept increasing by the day, saying the development had a serious public health implications.
“Approximately, 1,080, 328 residents of Ogun State practice open defecation, especially in the rural areas,” he said.
“This figure represent 28.8 percent of 3,751,140 the population,” he said.
Mr Afuape, a field officer and a member of the state onchocerciasis control team in the Ministry of Health, noted that open defecation contributes to the spread of the deadly Hepatitis disease, and that it accounts for the highest number of deaths of children under the ages of five.
He suggested that open defecation could be eliminated if there was the political will, domestication and enforcement of sanitation laws, awareness campaigns on its health implications.
He recommended more enlightenment programmes on environmental behavioural change; better sanitation solution that offers alternatives to open defecation; construction of more toilets in public places such as markets, motor parks, schools and more attention paid to water supply.
Also speaking the State Chairman of the Community Health Practitioners, Donnish Oriola, emphasised the need to update the knowledge of members and improve methods.
He said this would require capacity building, training and retraining so as to move with the trend in public health.
Ebri Eteng, WASH Officer, UNICEF, Sokoto Field Office, said that UNICEF has planned to celebrate the World Toilet Day to ensure that everyone has access to toilet by 2030.
According to Mr. Eteng, the World Toilet Day which comes up on Nov. 19, is a day to raise awareness and inspire action to tackle the global sanitation crisis.
“Today, 2.4 billion people are struggling to stay well, keep their children alive and work their way to a better future, all for the want of a toilet,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Federal Ministry of Water Resources recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with 42 microfinance institutions and three micro-credit banks to provide affordable loans to households for the construction of sanitation facilities.
The ministry`s Permanent Secretary, Rabi Jimeta, said that the partnership was also to implement the Partnership for Expanded Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (PEWASH) programme in the country, which needed no fewer than N510 billion.
Ms. Jimeta said the partner financial institutions would incorporate sanitation financing into their existing micro-credit portfolio and provide loans in collaboration with UNICEF and the State and Local Government agencies.
NAN also recalls that the ministry recently inaugurated the PEWASH strategy to seek out ways of funding to meet the sanitation and hygiene needs in the country before 2030.
She said the ministry was already partnering with UNICEF and Association of Non-Bank Microfinance Institutions of Nigeria (ANMFIN) to seek out practical ways of providing funds to meet this target.
She reiterated the Federal Government`s commitment to ending open defecation in Nigeria by 2025, saying that this was possible with full implementation of the PEWASH strategy.
Ms. Jimeta said there was an urgent need for a pool fund to ensure availability of cheaper loans to promote uptake of improved toilets.
She noted that this step would facilitate the provision of sanitation facilities across the country and also provide means of financing for sanitation for individuals.
“Developing a pool fund through the generous contribution of WASH stakeholders is essential to bring dedicated financing for rural WASH sector,“ she said.
The DFID representative, Kemi Williams, reassured of UK Government’s continued support to the Federal Government in achieving its SDG targets and helping out the poorest and most vulnerable in the process.
The CBN`s Deputy Director, Osita Nwanisobi, presented the lessons from existing micro, small and medium enterprise development fund and agreed to work with FMWR towards creation of the pool fund.
The PEWASH programme is to contribute to improvement in public health and eradication of poverty in Nigeria through the achievement of SDGs six, especially in rural areas where access to quality water and sanitation are grossly inadequate.