UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins, said more needs to be done to ensure all Nigerians have access to safe toilets and shift closer to ending open defecation.
According to UNICEF, the rate of open defecation in Nigeria has remained steady at 23 per cent, with 46 million Nigerians still defecating in the open.
The Federal Government of Nigeria had in November 2018 declared a state of emergency in the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector and launched a national campaign tagged ‘Clean Nigeria: Use the Toilets’, as part of moves towards defecation-free Nigeria by 2025.
“There is a clear commitment by the Nigerian government to helping the population to move away from the practice of open defecation -a move
that will help support better health outcomes for all, including especially children,” Hawkins stated in a statement on World Toilet Day.
“With the clean Nigeria campaign, we are making strong efforts, but the whole country needs to put their full weight behind the campaign. We cannot afford to fail-ending open defection is crucial to making progress in so many other areas, including health.”
UNICEF describes as “limited” the progress over the last two years in the fight against open defecation in Nigeria. There has been some progress on ending open defecation, with 71 out of the 774 local government areas now declared ‘open defecation-free -up from 18 in 2019,” it stated.
“75 per cent of Nigerians have access to basic drinking water services-up from 70 per cent in 2019. Access to sanitation (toilet and handwashing facilities) has also increased modestly from 44 per cent to 46 per cent over the same period.”
But Hawkins stressed the need to achieve an open defecation free Nigeria, noting safe sanitation and proper hand hygiene practices help prevent illnesses’ that impact families’ livelihoods and take the lives of many children.