Thirty-three million people still practise open defecation in Nigeria, the Director, Water Quality Control and Sanitation of the Federal Ministry of Water Resources, Samuel Ome, said on Friday.
Mr. Ome said in Abuja that it is sad that open defecation is still a big challenge in the country.
He said many urban settlements lack hygiene facilities, resulting in open defecation, which poses a threat to life as faeces is washed into drinking water sources.
Mr. Ome, who is also the Chairman, National Task Group on Sanitation, NTGS, stressed the need for attitudinal change to reduce water-borne diseases.
He said it was important that Nigerians cultivate clean habits, pointing out that good hygiene; often termed as ‘a personal thing’, should reflect in the lives of Nigerians.
“Sanitation starts with the individual, those things you do voluntarily become your attitude.
“You wake up in the morning, you use the toilet, you flush the toilet, you brush your teeth, you wash your body before going to work, nobody prompts you to do it, you do it voluntarily.
“In a sense, sanitation is personal, those personal things you do and attitude you cultivate to improve your cleanliness, sanitation starts from the family point.
“The garbage you bring out must be disposed of properly, so sanitation has a huge role to play in the family, community and to the nation,” Mr. Ome said.
He said government was doing a lot to improve access to sanitation as basic access to sanitation in Nigeria still stands at 41 per cent coverage.
Mr. Ome said water is important in the development of a nation as water is life.
He said 70 per cent of ailments were water related, including cholera, which affected people living in unhygienic environments or consumed bad water.
He, however, called on all Nigerians to cultivate the habit of hand washing to reduce unnecessary deaths from water-borne diseases.
“As you go on your daily activities, before you eat your food, after shaking hands, you can wash your hands up to four times in the office so as to improve your hygiene to minimise the transmission of diseases.
“Washing your hands with soap or ashes in running water helps to break the transmission of water-borne diseases.
“What we are advocating is that if we can do it for Ebola, we can do it for Cholera and others,” Mr. Ome said.