WaterAid Nigeria has welcomed a new UN campaign championed by UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson to end the practice of open defecation.
The organisation’s communications and campaigns manager, Oluseyi Abdulmalik, said yesterday that where there is open defecation, pathogens spread quickly, causing diarrhea, cholera, bilharzia and other diseases.
He also averred that over one billion people around the world relieve themselves in bushes, in fields or at the sides of roads or railway tracks for lack of even a basic, shared pit in the ground. “This is 14% of the world’s population, or one person in seven.”
For Nigeria, the agency said 39 million which is 23% of the population practice open defecation. Recent WHO/UNICEF JMP figures for Nigeria show that the number of people with access to improved sanitation facilities has dropped even further from 31% last year to just 28% of the population now. This means about 122 million Nigerians do not have access to improved sanitation and a staggering 39 million (23% of the population) practice open defecation.
“Based on these figures, indications are that at present rates of progress, Sub-Saharan Africa overall will not become open defecation free until 2063,” he said
Country Representative of WaterAid Nigeria, Dr. Michael Ojo, said: “It is time for a drastic change to the status quo. It is hard to believe that in this day and age, people must still risk their health and dignity for the lack of a basic toilet. It’s even more difficult for girls and women who risk danger and harassment every time they go in search of a private place to relieve themselves. Safe water and basic sanitation has to be a top priority in effectively tackling extreme poverty. We call upon our leaders to take action.”
He said further that without basic toilets, girls are more likely to drop out of school, and adults are less able to care for their families or to work, exacting huge social and economic costs.
The new UN campaign to end open defecation is expected to last till the end of next year, as the UN develops a new set of development goals to replace the original Millennium Development Goals.