The Federal Ministry of Water Resources claimed that no less than 50 per cent of residents of Nigeria’s capital, Abuja defecate openly, because of the non-availability of public toilets.

The claim was made by Emmanuel Awe, the ministry’s Director, Water Quality Control and Sanitation.

His figure was based on a survey done by the National Bureau of Statistics and UNICEF on water, sanitation and hygiene(WASH) Norms.

Awe spoke at the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) Meeting with Head Teachers of Primary Schools in the Federal Capital Territory.

The NBS report also showed that no fewer than 47 million Nigerians are involved in open defecation and poor sanitation and Hygiene practices, with Nigerians in North Central in the lead.

Awe said the meeting with head teachers coincided with the efforts of the ministry to improve access to water and sanitation in the country.

“It is very sad from available data from WASH Norms that the north central part of the country has the largest population of open defecation practices, Abuja is part of it.

” It is worthy to note that we are all affected by open defecation practice one way or the other. Even if you don’t practice it, your driver, people around do it.So we must all rise up to change the culture of open defecation.”

The director said efforts of the Federal Government to end open defecation practice include the inauguration of the Open Defecation Free Roadmap by 2025, and the “Clean Nigeria, Use a Toilet” Campaign.

The WASH Ambassador, Ms Ebele Okeke, said sanitation and Hygiene are central to the health of children and the socio-economic development of the country.

She said the meeting was a call to action on the need for safe drinking water, basic sanitation and Hygiene.

She said no fewer than 50 per cent of schools lack sanitation facilities.

“It is clear that the challenges posed by Sanitation and Hygiene in schools can only be successfully addressed through the collaborative efforts of the parents and teachers of the children.

Okeke pledged the commitment of the WSSCC to continue to lead advocacy to scale up access to potable water and sanitation for the benefit of school children.

Dr Priscilla Achakpa, former National Coordinator WSSCC Nigeria, noted that maintaining proper sanitation and hygiene in schools is very important to increasing lifespan and reaping economic benefits for them and the society.

She expressed concerns that many schools, markets, places of worship, hospitals do not have access to clean and adequate toilets.Hand washing is also non-existent, she added.

“Many school children practice open defecation as a result of poor condition of WASH in schools, inadequate water, separate toilets for boys and girls.

“ Sanitary disposal and hand washing facilities in schools discourage children, especially girls from attending school full time during their menstruation and force some to even drop out from school.”

Achakpa added that improving WASH conditions would spur economic development, increase productivity in girls and women and also reduce mortality and morbidity rates.

She also urged school Heads to ensure continuous advocacy for increased WASH facilities and also enlighten other teachers on hygiene promotion.