Open defeacation could be a serious threat to human health.
As the world commemorates the World Environment Day on Wednesday, UNICEF said 90 per cent of diarrhoea cases in children under five is related to unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene.
This is contained in a statement signed by Geoffrey Njoku, UNICEF Communication Specialist, in Abuja on Wednesday.
The statement noted that reduction in open defecation could significantly reduce the incidences of diarrhoea, adding that more Nigerians now use toilets.
“Open defecation causes contamination to water bodies and is a serious threat to public health, especially during flooding.
“We know that by improving sanitation, we can improve child survival as well as the environment,” it said.
It stated that Nigeria had demonstrated that it was possible to improve the sanitation situation, especially in rural areas, by engaging the communities through a Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) approach.
“CLTS is a process of engaging with the community members ranging from individuals to schools and traditional leaders to empower them to address their sanitation situation by ending open defecation.
“It is also the use of toilets constructed by locally available materials.
“Testimonies to improved public health and a clean environment are common in the Open Defecation Free communities.
The statement said UNICEF had implemented CLTS in 30 states, in partnership with relevant government ministries and stakeholders.
“As a result, there are more than 4,000 open defecation-free claimed communities, with over 2.5 million inhabitants now using toilets.
“With continuous support from governments and other partners in scaling up this approach, more Nigerians will live in open defecation-free communities,” it noted
It noted that Nigeria could still make substantial progress towards attaining the MDGs sanitation specific target. It added that the country had also demonstrated its commitment by successfully hosting the Presidential Summit on Water in February.
The UNICEF Nigeria Country Representative, Jean Gough, said “ending open defecation also means saving the lives of thousands of Nigerian children dying annually from preventable water and sanitation-related diseases’’.