No fewer than 49 million Nigerians still defecate openly, Bisi Agberemi, a UNICEF Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Specialist, said.
Agberemi said this at the ongoing two-day National Stakeholders Workshop on “Roadmap for Ending Open Defecation’’ in Abuja on Wednesday.
According to him, the Federal Government must accelerate efforts to eliminate open defecation in the country.
He said this was necessary as open defecation was still the leading cause of preventable child deaths.
He added that only 64 percent of the world’s population had access to improved sanitation, stressing that it was sad to note that Nigeria was still among the top 10 countries practicing open defecation.
Agberemi quoted the 2013 National Demographic Health Survey which shows that only 28.7 percent of Nigerians had access to basic sanitation facilities.
This, he said, needed to be scaled-up through continued sustainability of practices, such as hand washing, to achieve an open defecation-free Nigeria.
He, however, called for the review of obsolete public health laws and implementation of policies to meet the 2025 target.
The specialist also called for increased funding of sanitation issues, saying that awareness should be promoted at all levels of government.
He said “we must all work together to advocate for the harmonization of sanitation policies and cultivate the attitude of cleanliness at all times.’’
Micheal Ojo, WaterAid’s Country Representative, said cycle of illnesses still persisted in communities lacking sanitation facilities.
He said that access to safe water and secured toilets were necessary for all, saying that “defecating in the open is like we are infecting ourselves.
“In communities where there is open defecation, there are diseases like diarrhoea, dysentery, cholera and gastroenteritis, killing children under five years.’’
Ojo said open defecation was still causing Nigeria to lose millions of naira annually, saying the issue needed to be dealt with to secure the nations’ future.
The country representative stressed the need to have a national road map which would also involve state governments to address the issue before 2025.
Sarah Ochekpe, the Minister of Water Resources, represented by the Director, Research and Planning, Adamu Wakil, reiterated Federal Government’s efforts toward eliminating open defecation.
Ochekpe said that government was implementing the Community Led Total Sanitation project to make Nigeria open defecation-free.
She said the approach was targeted at changing the attitude of people in the communities on hygiene and sanitation practices, saying it was recording positive results.
The minister added that “for Nigerians to favourably compete on the global arena, it is necessary to imbibe the culture and practice of safe sanitation and hygiene.’’
It would be recalled that the UN launched a campaign for access to basic sanitation at the commemoration of the World Water day.
The campaign, aimed at ending open defecation by 2025, calls on governments, civil society organizations, businesses and international organizations to take action to ensure that people have access to sanitized environments.