FG working to end open defecation By Jide Ayobolu

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The Federal Government is doing everything possible to end open delectation in the country, the Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed has said.

Mohammed posited that open defection was responsible for majority of diseases and high mortality rate among under five children in Nigeria. He spoke in Jos, Plateau state, during a two-day media dialogue on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) projects organized by the Federal ministry of information in conjunction with United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF).

The minister who was represented by a Deputy Director, Mr. Olumide Osanyinpeju, said the federal ministry has great concern on the wellbeing of Nigerians, particularly of children who are vulnerable to communicable diseases. He stressed that the government was desirous to ending open defecation in the country by year 2030 as a means of ensuring better healthcare services.

He said, “Open defecation is incredibly dangerous, as contact with human waste can cause diseases such as cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, polio, diarrhoea, worm infestation and under nutrition. We must double our current efforts in order to end open defecation by 2030.” Declaring the workshop open, Plateau state Commissioner for Water resources and energy Ja’afaru Wuyep, said there are positive results in the lives of the people; assuring that the state government will continue to invest on its people.

The commissioner stated Plateau state government with UNICEF “our partnership wirth UNICEF is necessary, we have seen positive results on our people, UNICEF are everywhere in the rural areas assisting our people.

“When we invest in children, we are correcting the past, and making the future right,” he added. He commended UNICEF for coming to their aide and standing in the gap where government could not reach it citizens.

He said, “UNICEF has been the major partners to Plateau state in our human challenges, as a government, we will continue to partner UNICEF.”

UNICEF chief for Water and Sanitation Hygiene (WASH) in Nigeria Zaid Jurji, in a paper presentation revealed that 60 million Nigerians do not have no access to portable water. He also said 88 percent of the diarrhea cases in the country was caused by open defecation and lack of portable water. He urged Nigeria government to invest more in water and sanitation as it goes a long way to impact on the wellbeing of the people.

A Water and Sanitation Hygiene specialist, Idrissa Yeo, has stated that only three local governments in the country are free from open defecation. Yeo stated this recently in a two-day media dialogue and workshop organized by the Federal Ministry of Information in conjunction with the United Nations Children’s Fund.

He listed the local governments as: Dass in Bauchi State, Obaniku in Cross River State and Warji, also in Bauchi.

The WASH specialist further called on proper sanitation after the use of toilets stressing that a single gramme of faces contains 10 million viruses, 1 million bacteria and a thousand parasites capable of causing serious medical havoc to the individual.

He also pointed out that only 34 schools in Shendam and Riyom Local government in Plateau have access to clean water and sanitation hygiene and he lamented that the absence o  water and sanitation have hampered the academic pursuit o as only 11, 138 students (5, 562 girls and 5, 576 boys) have access to water.

Yeo also stated that 40% of people in Plateau practice open defecation and the chief of WASH in Nigeria, Zaid, Jurji, called or government to allow the private sector to take charge of providing water to the populace while government plays the role of a regulatory agency.

The Minister of Water Resources, Mr Suleiman Adamu, says that the Federal Government is considering legislation against open defecation in the country. Adamu said this recently at an Inter-Ministerial Dialogue on Sanitation in Abuja recently.

He said a large number of Nigerians still practice open defecation due to the failure of landlords to provide toilets in their buildings.

According to him, such laws will go a long way to address those who indiscriminately defecate in the open, forgetting that faeceas are transferable to foods and water. “We are looking at having a legislation to punish those practicing open defecation, this is important because it will serve as deterrent to others and also encourage everyone to build and use their toilets.”

He called on all Nigerians to promote behavior change in hygiene promotion, saying those practicing open defecation may soon face sanctions.

The minister noted that open defecation has been known to be the leading cause of preventable deaths in under five children.

He said there was the need to move away from dependence on budgetary allocations for promoting hygiene, saying Nigerians ought to understand that promoting health and hygiene is a great way to reduce disease burden.

The minister noted that the understanding of the crosscutting role of Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector and its impact on other sectors has made it imperative to foster a strong mechanism to address sanitation issues.

Adamu reiterated the Federal Government’s commitment to improve hygiene through the inauguration of the Partnership for Extended Water Sanitation and Hygiene in Nigeria to encourage stakeholders step up advocacy to promote improved livelihood. Dr Priscilla Achakpa, National Coordinator, Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) said no fewer than 46 million Nigerians practice open defecation. He said that children of the poor were four times more likely to get diarrhoea as against those of the rich.

According to him, there is the need for all stakeholders to see sanitation as everyone’s business. “It is a cross sectoral issue that affects the social economic, health, wellbeing of individuals.” Achakpa said there was the need to build capacity of women, girls and other stakeholders on menstrual hygiene management and promotion of separate toilets for boys and girls to enable girls increase school attendance.

Mr Emmanuel Awe, Director, Water Quality Control and Sanitation with the ministry, said measures were on to harmonise the National Sanitation Policy towards overall hygiene promotion. Awe urged ministries to have separate budget line for promoting sanitation policies and programmes towards meeting the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

Open defecation is the human practice of defecating outside—in the open. In lieu of toilets, people use fields, bushes, forests, open bodies of water or other open space.

The practice is common where sanitation infrastructure is not available. About 892 million people, or 12 percent of the global population, practice open defecation.

The term ‘open defecation’ is used in literature about water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH). Open defecation can cause severe health and environmental problems.

High levels of open defecation are usually linked to high child mortality, poor nutrition, poverty, and large disparities between rich and poor.

Ending open defecation is listed as an indicator for measuring the sustainable development goals. Extreme poverty and lack of sanitation are statistically linked.

Therefore, eliminating open defecation is thought to be an important part of the effort to eliminate poverty. People may prefer open defecation based on traditional cultural practices or lack of access to toilets, or both. Even if toilets are available, behavioural change efforts may still be needed to promote the use of toilets.

The term “open defecation” became widely used in the water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) sector from about 2008. This was during the publications of the Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation (JMP) and the UN International Year of Sanitation. More awareness was generated.

The JMP is a joint program by WHO and UNICEF to monitor the water and sanitation targets for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The MDGs existed from 2000-2015, before the Sustainable Development Goals. For monitoring purposes, two categories were created: 1) improved sanitation and (2) unimproved sanitation. Open defecation falls into the category of unimproved sanitation. This means that people who practice open defecation do not have access to improved sanitation.

In 2013 World Toilet Day was celebrated as an official UN day for the first time.

The term “open defecation” was used in high-level speeches, that helped to draw global attention to this issue (for example, in the “call to action” on sanitation issued by the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations in March 2013).

Slow progress on sanitation and the entrenched practice of open defecation among millions around the world continue to put children and their communities at risk, UNICEF warned on World Toilet Day.

Some 2.5 billion people worldwide do not have adequate toilets and among them 1 billion defecate in the open – in fields, bushes, or bodies of water – putting them, and especially children, in danger of deadly faecal-oral diseases like diarrhoea.

In 2013 more than 340,000 children under five died from diarrhoeal diseases due to a lack of safe water, sanitation and basic hygiene – an average of almost 1,000 deaths per day. “Lack of sanitation is a reliable marker of how the poorest in a country are faring,” said Sanjay Wijesekera, head of UNICEF’s global water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programmes. “But although it is the poor who overwhelmingly do not have toilets, everyone suffers from the contaminating effects of open defecation, so everyone should have a sense of urgency about addressing this problem.”

The call to end the practice of open defecation is being made with growing insistence as the links with childhood stunting become clearer. India, with 597 million (half the population) practicing open defecation, also has high levels of stunting. Last week, UNICEF convened a conference in New Delhi called ‘Stop Stunting’ to call attention to the effect of open defecation on the entire population, particularly children. UNICEF’s ‘Take Poo to the Loo’ campaign in India also works to raise awareness of the dangers associated with open defecation.

“The challenge of open defecation is one of both equity and dignity, and very often of safety as well, particularly for women and girls,” Wijesekera noted.

“They have to wait until dark to relieve themselves, putting them in danger of attack, and worse, as we have seen recently.” In May, the hanging of two teenage girls in Uttar Pradesh who had gone out after dark to defecate caused international shock and dismay, and highlighted the security issues involved in open defecation.

UNICEF’s Community Approaches to Total Sanitation addresses the problem at the local level by involving communities in devising solutions, and has led to some 26 million people across more than 50 countries abandoning the practice of open defecation since 2008.

Eighty-two per cent of the 1 billion people practising open defecation live in just 10 countries: India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Sudan, Niger, Nepal, China, and Mozambique.

The numbers of people practising open defecation are still rising in 26 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, though they have declined in Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. In Nigeria, numbers of open defecators increased from 23 million in 1990 to 39 million in 2012.

Globally, some 1.9 billion people have gained access to improved sanitation since 1990.

However, progress has not kept up with population growth and the Millennium Development Goal target on sanitation is unlikely to be reached by 2015 at current rates of progress. The inter-governmental Open Working Group on the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals have recommended that the new goals include a target of achieving adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and ending open defecation by 2030.

Defecating in open fields, bushes and bodies of water, is widely practiced in Nigeria. Indeed, the country is one huge field, where people defecate without shame and without taking into consideration the impact of their actions on the health of others.

In many rural communities, people still build houses without provisions for toilets, or as the case may be, latrines, where waste can be emptied without others coming  into contact with it. In the urban centres, such cases are also pervasive. In many of our so-called modern cities, people use the outdoors as bathrooms and toilets.

Many walkways and nearby bushes reek of urine and decaying faecal matter.

Yet experts have consistently warned that when large numbers of people are defecating outdoors, it’s extremely difficult to avoid ingesting human waste, either because it has contaminated the food or water supplies or because it has been spread by flies and dust.

According to the joint UNICEF and the World Health Organization report previously published on the issue, the absence of toilets remains one of the leading causes of illness and death among children. The report said that diarrhea, a disease often associated with poor sanitary conditions, and respiratory infections resulting from poor hygiene, kill about 400,000 children under the age of five annually.

These deaths are largely preventable with improvements in water, sanitation and hygiene.

Ayobolu, a public affairs analyst contributed this piece from Lagos State

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