Assessing Nigeria’s drive towards an open defecation-free nation

In Ungwar Mallam, a community in Dugabau Ward, Kabo Local Government in Kano State, by-laws exist which prescribe payment of fine for anyone found publicly defecating.

This has made it possible for defaulters paying N5,000 fine as a deterrent for others.

On a visit to the community, one would observe the presence of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Committee (WASHCOM) members.

They have been trained as hygiene ambassadors, to carry out sustainable hygiene practices in many communities.

From encouraging community members to build and use their toilets, to monitoring usage, this has reduced the previous practice of open defecation.

In Maikalwa Yanma, a community under Nai’bawa ward, Kumbotso LGA, Hayatuddin Safiyo said since the introduction of the UNICEF-supported Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programme, many communities have imbibed hygiene practices.

Safiyo said such practices included the introduction of innovations to manage water and food contamination through feaces, proper waste disposals and covering toilets with tightly-fitted drop hole covers.

This, he said, has been reflected with low records of preventable diseases and deaths, especially among under-five children.

Safiyo says communities now practice safety and hygiene by avoiding excreta contamination of water sources and adhering to the rule.

“There is a very big impact, let us take the previous year. In the previous year, there was not much rainfall, and the high rate of sickness was pronounced.

“In comparison with this year, the rainfall is high, much rainfall, but the rate of sickness is very low, considering the sensitisation, the knowledge of the hygiene programme,” he said.

Data from UNICEF showed that Nigeria was among the nations in the world with the highest number of people practising open defecation, estimated at over 47 million.

The practice has had a negative effect on the populace, especially children, in the areas of health and education and has contributed to the country’s failure to meet the MDG target.

The sanitation situation in the country prompted the National Council on Water Resources in 2014 to prioritize the development of a roadmap towards eliminating open defecation in the country, in line with the United Nations global campaign for ending open defecation.

This initiative tagged “Making Nigeria Open Defecation Free by 2025: A National Roadmap” was developed by the Federal Ministry of Water Resources with invaluable support from UNICEF and other key sector players across Nigeria.

In 2016, the National Council on Water Resources endorsed this road map as a means to eliminate open defecation in Nigeria.

The road map provides a guide towards achieving an open defecation free country using different approaches such as capacity development and promotion of improved technology options through sanitation marketing.

It stipulates the provision of sanitation facilities in public places; Community -Led Total Sanitation; promotional and media campaigns; creating enabling environment and coordination mechanism.

At the same time, many states have keyed into this road map with many activities to promote the building and using of toilets towards ending open defecation.

For this reason, the Director, FCT Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency (RUWASSA), Dr. Mohammed Dan-Hassan, said it was constructing 10,000 public toilets in strategic locations across the territory.

Dan-Hassan noted that this became necessary following President Muhammadu Buhari’s declaration of a state of emergency on open defecation in the 36 states of the Federation including the FCT.

He explained that in actualisation of the president’s directives, the construction of the toilets was one of the road maps to end open defecation in the territory by 2025.

The RUWASSA head sadly noted that with the 300 approved contractors, only 10 toilets had been built so far, with work ongoing at 65 other sites.

Dan-Hassan said that RUWASSA has a target of 2023 to eradicate open defecation in the FCT, saying lack of cooperation among relevant agencies like schools and medical facilities are its challenges.

However, many programmes have been introduced to make this national target a reality with the signing of the Executive Order 009 by President Buhari and the formation of the Clean Nigeria: Use the Toilet Campaign Secretariat.

Also, with the recent right given to Nigeria to host the 2022 World Toilet Summit in November, many are of the opinion that this would give the country the needed traction towards overcoming its sanitation challenges.

Mr Jack Sim, Founder of the World Toilet Organisation (WTO), while making the announcement, said the summit would be a great opportunity to showcase the extensive efforts of the Federal Government of Nigeria and also to drive the intended change.

Mrs Caterina De Albuquerque, Chief Executive Officer, Sanitation and Water for All (SWA), pointed out that sanitation was at one time not discussed and almost forgotten globally.

De Albuquerque applauded the leadership of Nigeria, for prioritising Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, adding that Nigeria’s example would inspire other African countries to follow suit.

“I applaud the decision to choose Nigeria as a host country for this important summit. Their focus on water and sanitation issues has been exemplary, with strong displays of political will at the highest levels of government.

“While progress has been hampered by COVID-19, their resolve to tackle open defecation, improve hygiene and provide access to clean drinking water is inspirational to other countries across the continent,’’ she said.

Dr Nicholas Igwe, National Coordinator, Organised Private Sector in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, said that the choice of Nigeria for the summit was a clear endorsement of the commitment and political will of the Federal Government towards Water, Sanitation and Hygiene delivery in Nigeria.

Igwe indicates that the private sector has a critical role to play in driving the sanitation economy while also facilitating job creation.

He said the organised private sector has partnered with the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, to mobilize two million Nigerians outside the country to adopt a toilet each for a household.

Igwe said that the measure was a multi -stakeholder approach designed to help the Federal Government put an end to open defecation in the country and also promote a healthy and disease free environment.

“We, the organised private sector in WASH recognize the importance of assisting the government based on the strong political will that has been shown.

“We have gone ahead to partner with the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission to mobilise two million Nigerians outside the country to adopt a toilet each for a household,” he said.

The Minister of Water Resources, Mr Suleiman Adamu, says that the selection of Nigeria as the host country for 2022 World Toilet Summit is a welcome development.

Adamu said that the choice of Nigeria to host the summit is coming at a period when Nigeria has made concrete plans to exit from the comity of nations practising open defecation.

The Minister recalled that the Open Defecation Free (ODF) Campaign was launched in November 2019, and was aimed at mobilising high level political support, resources and the entire populace towards building a new culture of safe sanitation.

He acknowledges that Nigeria needs all necessary support to ensure that the ODF Campaign gains traction with all stakeholders playing their part.

“I am optimistic that the World Toilet Summit will provide a veritable platform for mobilisation of the private sector and other critical stakeholders in addressing the challenge of Open Defecation in the country,’’ Adamu said.

Nevertheless, some experts say the upcoming summit will give Nigeria the needed push if new sanitation technologies will be introduced in a sustainable and cost-effective manner.

They said having an enabling environment, leadership and coordination is required in achieving a defecation-free target.

They added that working together with communities, civil society, development agencies, private sector and government at sub-national levels is crucial.

Article by Tosin Kolade, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)

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