The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has disclosed that the rate of open defecation in Nigeria had remained steady at 23 per cent, with an estimated 46 million Nigerians still defecating in the open.
UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Mr. Peter Hawkins, made the disclosure in a statement, issued on Friday, in Lagos, to commemorate World Toilet Day, marked annually on November 19.
Hawkins said there had been limited progress over the past two years in the fight against open defecation in Nigeria.
“It is clear that more needs to be done to ensure that all Nigerians have access to safe toilets and that we shift closer to ending open defecation across the country.
“With the Clean Nigeria campaign, we are making strong efforts, but the whole country needs to put their full weight behind this campaign.
“We cannot afford to fail – ending open defecation is crucial to making progress in so many other areas, including health,” he said.
He cited Kwara, Plateau, and Ebonyi, as the states with the highest rates of open defecation, while Abia, Zamfara, and Akwa Ibom, have the lowest rates.
Hawkins, however, noted that there had been some progress in ending open defecation, as 71 out of Nigeria’s 774 local government areas have now been declared open defection-free, up from 18 in 2019.
According to him, the states with the highest number of open defecation-free local government areas are: Katsina, Jigawa and Benue – with 21, 18 and 9, respectively.
“Nigeria is making some progress in improving access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services to its population, with 75 per cent of Nigerians having access to basic drinking water services – up from 70 per cent in 2019.
“Access to sanitation, that is, toilet and hand-washing facilities, has also increased modestly, from 44 per cent to 46 per cent over the same period,” Hawkins said.
He noted that President Muhammadu Buhari had, in November 2018, declared a state of emergency in the WASH sector and had also inaugurated a national campaign tagged, ”Clean Nigeria: Use the Toilet” to jump-start the country’s journey to becoming open defecation-free by 2025.
“There is a clear commitment by the government to help the population move away from the practice of open defecation, a move that will help support better health outcomes for all, especially children. The importance of adequate and safe sanitation and proper hand hygiene practices cannot be overstated.”