The Federal Government on Thursday, said 48 million Nigerians still practise open defecation, and many people still use the bush and water bodies as their regular means for excreta disposal.
Speaking during the joint press briefing organised by the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Water Resources and Sanitation, in commemoration of World Toilet Day in Abuja, the Minister of Environment, Balarabe Abbas noted that many institutions do not have sanitary facilities and where they exist they are either not functioning or misused.
Abbas stressed that most urban areas do not have sewerage systems and safe collection of sewage, hence disposal becomes a huge challenge.
The PUNCH reports that WTD is commemorated on November 19 to raise awareness of the billions of people living without access to safely managed sanitation.
This year’s theme – ‘Accelerating Change’ underscores the need for every sector and every Nigerian to play a role in tackling the sanitation crisis.
“This year’s WTD commemoration presents an opportunity to bring to our consciousness that with just seven years left, the world has to work, on average, five times faster to meet the sanitation target of SDG six on time. This therefore should stimulate and spur the government and the citizenry to action to improve and change the narratives.
“Toilets are a foundation stone of public health and they play an important role in protecting the environment. They effectively and hygienically remove human waste away from the home, reducing the exposure our loved ones have to human waste and diseases.
“Unfortunately, toilets and the sanitation systems that support them are underfunded, poorly managed or neglected in many parts of the world including Nigeria with devastating consequences for health, economics and the environment particularly in the poorest and most marginalized communities.
“Right now, about 4.2 billion people in the world live without safe toilets and about 48 million Nigerians still practice open defecation, as many people still use the bush and water bodies as their regular means for excreta disposal. Many institutions, public and private, do not have sanitary facilities and where they exist they are either not functioning or misused.
“Most urban areas do not have sewerage systems and safe collection of sewage. Therefore, disposal becomes a huge challenge as many of the water bodies including rivers and streams become a repository for sewage and wastewater.”
The Minister said the sanitation crisis poses a threat to the environment and the health of citizens, particularly women, girls and other vulnerable groups.
According to him, one of the major consequences of poor excreta and sewage disposal is the high rate of diarrhoea disease which is the second cause of high morbidity and mortality rates among children under the age of five.
“The persistent re-occurrence of annual incidences of cholera outbreaks in some of our states are also manifestations of inadequate toilet facilities. Yet this could also be prevented through safe excreta disposal by every individual,” he added.
He, however, said the government is committed to addressing the sanitation challenges in the country and ensuring proper management of excreta.
Corroborating, the Minister of Water Resources and Sanitation, Joseph Utsev over 40 percent of wastewater is discharged into the environment without treatment.
Utsev said some of the untreated wastewater is being used in irrigation farming and the produce consumed with the attendant risks.
Utsev said, “In Nigeria, over 100 million persons lack access to basic sanitation while an estimated 48 million practice open defecation which puts the country among the countries with the highest number of people involved in this practice.
“The government recognises that access to adequate Water, Sanitation and Hygiene services is a critical factor for the socio-economic development of any nation with implications for human capital outcomes such as early childhood survival, health and educational attainment.
“In addition, the practice of open defecation due to the dearth of sanitation facilities is directly correlated with sanitation-related diseases, poor educational outcomes and loss of productivity. This is besides such as other consequences such as the concomitant lack of dignity, inconvenience and violence experienced by women and girls when practicing open defecation.”
He said the government has initiated interventions through the WASH programmes and projects to accelerate progress towards national targets within the context of the global commitment.
“Appreciable progress is being made towards the attainment of the Open Defecation Free status in communities and Local Government Areas across the country. In this regard, it is noteworthy that 105 Local Government Areas and over 40,000 communities have achieved the ODF status.
“Despite this encouraging development, we need to do much more in order to attain the 2025 target date of ending open defecation in Nigeria,” he stated