Towards achieving good toilet habit

Today, the global community is marking this year’sWorld Toilet Day (WTD). The day is set aside to draw the attention of humanity to the need to promote healthy toilet habit within and around their environment. The theme for this year’s celebration is “Valuing Toilets”. The theme should be a wake-up for various governments the world over to work towards mitigating the negative impact of the climate change phenomenon on water which is a major factor in the cultivation of sustainable toilet habit.

The World Toilet Organisation (WTO) founded by Jack Sim in 2001 declared November 19 every year as the day to deepen and sustain global interest in the way and manner the call of nature is answered. About 12 years later, a joint initiative between the Government of Singapore and the WTO led to Singapore’s first United Nations resolution named “Sanitation for All” which addressed global sanitation challenges and called for collective action through commemoration of the WTD. The resolution was adopted by 122 countries at the 67th session of the UN General Assembly.

Available statistics have revealed that 2.4 billion people (about 1 out of every 3 persons) lack access to improved sanitation facilities, and about one billion defecate openly. This exposure to human faeces is one of the major causes of life threatening diseases like cholera, diarrhoea, typhoid fever and even hepatitis contracted through unsafe water and poor sanitation habit. Victims of poor sanitation cut across all strata of the society. However, children especially those below the age of five are more vulnerable. For instance, in 2013, over 340, 000 kids died globally from poor sanitation and hygiene-related conditions before attaining the age of five.

Poor sanitation habit is peculiar to developing countries like Nigeria where poverty and ignorance hold sway. Open defecation is a common sight both in rural and urban centres in this country. Most residential and business premises are not provided with adequate or modern toilets, soap and water to wash their hands after defecation. Pit latrines are still in use in many homes in a 21st Century Nigeria. Public toilets are few if any in places like markets, motor parks, schools in most towns and cities. And where they are available, the users are made to pay for using them. Not many are prepared to pay for such services.  Consequently, many who are pressed by nature are seen urinating by the roadside or disappearing into the gutters or any secluded spotsto empty their bowels.Women and girls forced to defecate in the opennot only lose their dignity and honourbut sometimes also fall victim of sexual assault.

In March, 2014, the primordial habit of open defecation triggered off a massacre following the shooting of a young man who was caught by a soldier while answering the call of nature near the premises of the Dangote Cement Company in Gboko. According to reports, the man named Terhile Jirbo was ordered by the soldier to evacuate the faeces with his mouth. He pleaded to be allowed to do so with his hands. The request angered the soldier who eventually shot him in the mouth. Although Terhile survived the brutal attack, the soldier’s action angered the youth around, and the protest that followedled to the killing of about seven innocent people.Earlier in faraway China, precisely in September 2008, a Nigerian businessmanwas murdered by security agents for allegedly urinating in the open in Sanyuli, Guangzhou province.

Two years ago, Nigeria observed the commemoration with the launch of the Open Defecation Free (ODF) campaign tagged “Clean Nigeria: Use The Toilet.” This initiative was a precursor to the signing of an Executive Order by President Muhammadu Buhari to criminalise open defecation in the country.

The Minister of Water Resources, Engr. Suleiman Adamu, also used the occasion inform Nigerians that the president had promulgated a campaign to make the country open defecation-free by 2025, stressing that the Order would mandate all federal agencies to maintain adequate toilets in their offices and open up such facilities for public use.

He had said, “The campaign will actually be driven by the states themselves; we expect that we will mobilise people such as the civil society, corporate bodies, the Nollywood, market women, among others to drive the campaign.

“We also hope that individuals and organisations can be sponsoring toilets in schools, medical institutions as the campaign is total, so that there will be a culture of respecting toilets and they need to provide these toilets.”

He assured that the Federal Government would monitor and evaluate the progress of the campaign to ensure that Nigeria achieved open defecation free by 2025.One road map towards achieving the target is to provide mobile toilets with minimum charges in view of the egregious nature of most Nigerians. Once these facilities are available, citizens would be discouraged from practising the old habit. In developed climes where high premium is placed on good sanitation, incidents of diseases like cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery and the likes are long forgotten.