Abuja The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), has urged government, both at the federal and state levels, to declare a state of emergency on the sanitation sector, as Nigeria loses N45.5 billion due to lack of sanitation.
This comes 130 million Nigerians have no access to improved sanitation, and also ranks first in Africa, and second globally in countries with the highest practice of open defecation.
According to the Chief of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene of UNICEF, Zaid Jurji, this loss is due to premature deaths, healthcare costs, reduced time and productivity.
Jurji who disclosed this recently, at two-day media dialogue on European Union and Niger Delta Water Project, organised by the Child Rights Information Bureau (CRIB) of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, in collaboration with UNICEF, said sanitation in Nigeria suffers underfunding, political and financial commitment.
He further disclosed that one in every four persons in Nigeria lack access to basic toilet facilities, and only NGN 95.9 billion per year is needed to eliminate open defecation in Nigeria, as the economic gains could be about NGN N359.1 billion anually.
He said: “If Nigeria loses NGN 455 billion each year due to lack of sanitation and needs only N95.9 billion per year to eliminate open defecation, the economic gains could be about N359.1 billion or US$ 1.026 billion each year.
“Government should initiate bills/laws to promote sanitation and take urgent action to implement Open Defecation Roadmap.
“There is need for provision of toilets, because without toilets, people are forced to defecate in the open leading to exposure to diseases such as diarrhea, cholera, viral hepatitis, typhoid, polio and dysentery.” The WASH specialists further explained that 122,000 Nigerians, including 87,000 children under 5 die each year from diarrhea, and almost 90 percent is directly attributed to lack of Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH).
He further enjoined all hands to be on deck in the eradication of open defecation in the country, and urged private sectors to be fully involved in the marketing and the financial sector so as to improve the efficiency of the sanitation sector.
In his remarks, the Minister of Information and culture, Lai Mohammed lauded the European Union (EU), for the WASH activities aimed at creating safe water sources and sanitary facilities in communities and schools in Nigeria, particularly the Niger Delta Water Project.
The Minister was represented by Toye Falayi, of the Child Rights Information Bureau, said “the European Union ‘s Niger Delta water supply and sanitation sector programme for the Federal Republic of Nigeria, supports the Federal Government and five EU focal states; Delta, Edo, Akwa Ibom, Rivers and Bayelsa, to develop and implement water and sanitation sector reform, taking into consideration critical legal, policy and institutional issues.” Also speaking, the UNICEF Chief of Communication for West and Central Africa, Thierry Delvigne-Jean, in his presentation highlighted the role of the media in tackling the problem, and urged journalists in Nigeria to intensify the reportage of issues of water, sanitation and hygiene in the country so that policy makers would take the right steps.
Delvigne-Jean warned that failure to make proper investment in children and young people through provision of social amenities in accordance to population growth might lead to a bleak future.
Also speaking, UNICEF Chief of Communication, Eliana Drakopoulos said the role of the media in achieving the objective of UNICEF of WASH is very key and charged journalists to give feasibility to issues of water, sanitation and hygiene in Nigeria