WaterAid has said 116 million out of approximately 200 million Nigerian citizens do not have access to decent toilet facilities. This has led to 38.8 million of them indulging in open defecation.
The Acting Country Director of WaterAid Nigeria, Evelyn Mere, said this at the launch of the ‘Keep Your Promises Campaign in Abuja on Thursday.’
She said the crisis in the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector extends to institutions, for example, 50 per cent of all schools in Nigeria do not have basic water supply and sanitation facilities while 50 per cent of health care facilities lack clean water and 88 per cent of them lack basic sanitation.
WaterAid is an international non-governmental organisation focused on water, sanitation, and hygiene. It was set up in 1981 and operates in 34 countries, as of 2018. WaterAid started its operation in Nigeria in 1995.
According to Mrs Mere, nearly 60 thousand children die before they start school from diseases caused by poor levels of access to WASH. She said the time has come for the media to begin to inform citizens to ask duty bearers what their individual stands are on issues like water, sanitation and hygiene.
The director said the crisis led WaterAid Nigeria to launch the “VOTE4WASH” campaign, during the 2019 general elections, which rounded up successfully, with 120 signed pledge cards from electoral aspirants and politicians including, governor of Bauchi State, Bala Mohammed and former speaker house of representatives, Yakubu Dogara.
“Experience has shown us that many campaign promises in the past have been largely unfulfilled, unmet and without clear and convincing plans for actualising them,” she said.
This is what drove the NGO to launch the “Keep Your Promises Campaign”.
She said it is meant to empower citizens to use the media and other accountability platforms to follow up with elected officials in demanding for transparent and accountable governance.
“We will use the platform to keep them accountable to their commitments on increasing budget allocation for WASH services as well as to effectively utilise appropriated funds,” she said.
She encouraged the government to create a suitable environment for the private sector to come on board in the provision of toilets to the millions of people in need as it would reap major profit, create employment opportunities and contribution to taxation.
“For me, the missing link is always the government taking the lead. If the government takes the lead, creates the enabling environment, makes laws, policies, then the private sector can step in,” she said.
Also speaking at the event, the executive director of Connected Development, Hamzat Lawal, said the WASH crisis is something that Nigeria can no longer afford.
“Nigeria can no longer afford to not tackle this crisis. Why? Because this costs us 1.7 billion naira annually,” he said.
PREMIUM TIMES reported that Nigeria is now ranked second worldwide among countries where open defecation is prevalent. Mrs Mere, however, said that India aims to end open defecation completely by October this year so Nigeria is in danger of being ranked number one if necessary steps are not taken to curb the menace.
PREMIUM TIMES also reported how rampant open defecation actually is across the nation and gave reasons why some citizens believe they have no alternative than to indulge in the disparaging act.