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FEATURE: Tackling endemicity of open defecation in Nigerian communities



Tackling endemicity of open defecation in Nigerian communities, By Nana Musa, Nigeria News Agency

Open defecation is still very rampant in Efut Akaietta-Mbutu community, Calabar South Local Government Area of Cross River.

The residents whose main occupation is fishing defecate in the same river, the source of water supply for their domestic use.

“We defecate in the same river we fetch our drinking water, bath and also fish to earn our living because there is no standard place for defection in our community,” Mr. Kufre William, a fisherman said.

“Most times, people in our community go to the river to defecate, due to lack of adequate toilet facilities,” Enobong Ekong, a resident of the community echoed.

William and Ekong spoke during a field trip to the community organized by UNICEF.

William and Ekong attributed the prevalence of open defecation in the area to lack of toilet facilities.

They said that digging of pit latrine was very expensive because of the topography of the area.

William said: “We have appealed several times to the local and state governments to intervene, but we are yet to get help or get positive response from them.

“We know that as long as we use water from this river, it will affect our health, but we don’t have any alternative.

“To worsen the situation, there is no hospital or any medical center within our community; we pay N500 transport to the nearest general hospital.

“Many families do not have toilets; most of them indulge in open defecation when the need arises for them to respond to the call of nature.”

The traditional ruler of the community, His Highness Ndabo Eyamba, who spoke, appealed to the government to come to the assistance of the community.

“ Our people are facing a lot of challenges, the pit toilets we usually dig do not last up to six months before collapsing, because of the swampy nature of the environment.

` The people as a result of poverty cannot afford modern toilets with solid materials and proper sewage disposal facilities.’’

Eyambo lamented the absence of government’s presence in the community, pointing out that there is no public toilet, pipe borne water, good roads and hospitals in the community.

“ We do not have pipe borne water here, the few boreholes we have here are through community efforts and few individuals, making it difficult for many villagers to access potable water, we do not have clinics and hospitals for handling emergency situations when our people fall sick”, he said.

A community leader, Chief Ene Antigha, said that open defecation had impacted negatively on the health conditions of the residents.

He said that drinking water from unhygienic sources had contributed to cases of cholera, diarrhea, ringworm, among others recorded in the area.

According to him, the main challenges facing the community are lack of toilets, potable water, and good roads.

“Adults in the community defecate in the river and gutters; we are begging the government to come and look at how they can stop this, because of the bad water, diseases are rampant here.

“We do not have good source of potable water and as such, many lives are lost due to infection from water borne diseases.”

UNICEF Communication Specialist, Dr. Geoffrey Njoku, says open defecation portrays Nigeria in bad light before the international community.

“Nigeria loses about 1.3% (N455 billion) of GDP annually due to poor sanitation as a result of illness, low productivity, loss of learning opportunities, among others.

“More than 100,000 children under 5 years of age die each year due to diarrhea, of which 90 percent is directly attributable to unsafe water and sanitation.

“Nigeria is the second country with the highest children’s deaths due to diarrhea,” he said.

Mr Ibrahim Conteh, Chief Field Officer, UNICEF, Enugu, who also spoke, said that by 2030, Nigeria was expected to achieve adequate sanitation by paying attention to the needs of women and girls, as they are the most vulnerable to water borne disease infection.

According to him, when that is done, it will reduce the impact of open defecation on child development.

Conteh said: “1 in 4 children less than 5 years of age exhibit severe stunting, while 1 in 10 is wasted due to frequent episodes of diarrhea and other Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) related illnesses.”

According to available records, Nigeria ranks second among countries practicing open defecation globally.

The 2018 WASH National Outcome Routine Mapping (WASH NORM) survey showed that 24 percent of the population (47 million), still practice open defecation.

A survey carried out by UNICEF and other partners showed that only 13 out of the 774 local government areas in Nigeria have been certified Open Defecation Free (ODF).

Great effort is needed to ensure that Nigeria becomes Open Defecation Free by 25 and does not take over from India as the number one country practicing open defecation, as India was expected to be open defecation free by 2019.

The State of Emergency in WASH, declared by  President Muhammadu Buhari on November 2018, should be boosted through sustained support and commitment by all stakeholders.

All stakeholders should show commitment to the “Clean Nigeria: Use the Toilet” campaign and enlighten Nigerians on the dangers of open defecation and the need to sustain the universal access to safely managed sanitation in the country.

With sustained enlightenment and massive provision of toilet facilities, Nigeria may realize its ambition of becoming open defecation free by 2025.