The UN Children’s Fund has called on Nigerian Government to triple its current investment in the sanitation and hygiene sector to meet the Open Defecation Free (ODF) target by 2030.
Dr Jane Bevan, UNICEF Chief of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), made this call virtually at the opening of a two-day Media Dialogue on Open Defecation in Biu, Borno state.
Bevan noted that Nigeria was not on track to end open defecation by 2025, and in the 2030 SDG targets, but in 2059, at current progress rate, adding that the country cannot continue with ‘business as usual’.
Bevan, who was represented by Chisom Adimorah, UNICEF WASH Specialist, stressed the need to strengthen and scale up proven strategies to reach the country’s goals.
She said current sanitation situation revealed that 48 million people practiced open defecation, while 95 million are without access to basic sanitation services in the country.
“70 per cent of schools are without access to basic sanitation services, 88 per cent of health care facilities are without access to basic sanitation, while 80 per cent of markets and motor parks are without access to basic sanitation.
“Nigeria has been top five open defecators in the world for the past 15 years, moving from 5th place in 2003, 2nd place in 2015 and now 1st place in 2023 with the eradication of open defecation in India in 2019.
She said the menace of open defecation reflected in existing inequalities between the rich and the poor, with the poorest families 48 times more likely to defecate in the open than their richest counterparts.
According to her, key strategies to reach ODF goals includes; closing the toilet gaps by supporting households to pay for their latrines, Awareness creation and Market-based sanitation.
She said it also targeted the engagement of the private sector through Toilet Business Owners (TBOs) to sell and build toilets and providing support for poor households to access funds through micro finance institutions.
The Transitional Chairman, Biu Local Government Area, Alhaji Sule Abubakar, said the council had played its part in monitoring and evaluation of ODF communities and educating the people on the importance of a clean environment, good hygiene practices in sustaining the ODF status.
“Biu LG remains appreciative to our partners who have supported our WASH activities for years. Evidence of this support include the Drilling, upgrading and renovation of boreholes across Biu LGA in different communities.
“Development of water safety plans. Construction of WASH facilities in health centres, Construction of toilets in public places, schools, markets etc.
“Distribution of Sato Pans and Sato Stools modernised toilets to households, and support for the LGA in passing a by-law for the sustenance of the ODF status in Biu.
“The LGA is also sensitising our people on the importance of good sanitation and hygiene through a programme aired every Monday on the community radio station”.
Earlier, the team paid a courtesy visit to the Emir of Biu, Alhaji Umar Mustapha, who commended UNICEF’s efforts in promoting the health and wellbeing of his people.
The traditional ruler noted that the support received from the UN body had seen major impact in the lives of his population, as many opportunistic infections that occurred were now a thing of the past.
Mustapha however pledged to sustain current efforts in partnership with all District heads, in ensuring that the gains of the hygiene programme lasted.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the team visited ODF communities in Biu and Shani local government areas, to learn and disseminate local strategies and partnerships that facilitated the successes recorded.