The Menace of open defecation in Nigeria

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By: Chuks NZEH

It is disheartening to see human faeces in open places in Nigeria, despite several interventions by the international community to mitigate this anomaly in the world and in the country in particular.

This is regardless of the locations, whether it is the highbrow areas of the finest cities including the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, in Abuja has not been spared by these inhuman activities

The most affected areas includes but not limited to motor parks, footpaths, highways, streets, bushes, forests , recreation centers, even public institutions like railways, national stadium, have not been spared

Globally, Nigeria is now known and rated as the second country with the largest population of people who defecate openly after India and obviously the highest in Africa.

According to a 2018 report by the National Outcome Routine Mapping, NORM, Report, over 47 million Nigerians are victims of open defecation due to various reasons and the country loses N455 billion, US$ 1.3b, annually as a result of poor sanitation.

In the FCT, for instance, globally known as one of the fastest growing cities of Africa and one of the populous cities in Nigeria, the number of people defecating openly is also on the increase, especially with the daily influx of commuters seeking greener pastures in the capital city.

The Satellite towns are the most vulnerable due to the pressure on existing infrastructures, by an unanticipated population.

The stretch of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Road, for instance, because of the recent expansion of the road, which created enough spaces on both sides of the road has given a cover for those that thrive in this trend.

Some areas most affected along the road are Lugbe, Kuchingoro, Gossa, among others. It is a common sight during the day to see someone defecating in the open mostly hawkers who have no prearranged facilities to ease themselves intermittently when pressed in the course of their trading.

The Abuja Environmental Protection Board, AEPB, is the government agency that oversees the environment. According to the board’s mission statement, its main objective is to ensure a clean, hygienic and sustainable environment for the wellbeing of the residents, but it is obvious that they are overwhelmed by these inhuman activities.

Poverty, ignorance, and illiteracy have been associated with this sad path of our existence as a people, because it is surprising in cities like Lagos, Ibadan, Kano, Abuja, amongst others to see people either selling food, eating, drinking and very close to human faeces.

The Programme Coordinator of the group Comrade Nature Uchenna Obiakor, organizers of, ” YouthWASH Africa’s “Cleanup & Toilet4All” said their Campaigns are designed to provide hands-on sensitization on Environmental Hygiene, promote toilet construction, cleaning and maintenance, and promote behavioral change by raising awareness about the importance of good hygiene, recycling and effects of open defecation.”

Experts have also said these actions can never be justified because of the health consequences associated with improper handling of human faeces, especially when it gets in contact with public sources of water.

According to a World Bank Statistic, regions with high rates of open defecation experience tremendous problems with regards to sanitation and proper waste management.

The World Health Organization, WHO, have also said that open defecation can lead to serious negative effects on health and the environment.

Open defecation can be associated with vector-borne diseases, water-borne diseases, when the human waste collects into heaps; it attracts flies and other insects.

The flies then travel around the surrounding areas, with particles of the defecated materials and disease prone microbes when they then land on food and drinks that people ingest, directly transmitting diseases such as cholera.

According to 2018 NORM Report, 47 million Nigerians do not have any toilets and another 75 million use unimproved toilets. These Nigerians, including vulnerable women and children, suffer as a result of ingesting contaminated water or food and living in unsanitary conditions.

The United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, Chief of Water Sanitation and Hygiene, WASH, Mr. Zaid Jurji, noted that Nigeria loses N455 billion, US$ 1.3b, annually due to poor sanitation.

The UNICEF chief blamed the losses on premature deaths, health care costs and reduced time and productivity.

Jurji, who lamented on the serious implications of open defecation on Nigeria, said the new report also revealed that 90 percent of the 122, 000 Nigerians, including 87,000 children under five who die each year from diarrhea is directly attributable to lack of WASH.

Speaking in an earlier report on the issue a resident of Lugbe Federal Housing, Mr. Eric Madu, said the authorities are not living up to their responsibilities, because most people do not know the implications of their actions and when you hear they are having sensitization programme it will be in one of the major hotels in town. These activities should be held in the satellite towns to inform these people about the consequences of their actions and it will reduce open defecation.

Also speaking on the subject matter, a street trader Mrs. Owoicho Grace, said it is mostly this our brothers from the far north, they come to Abuja with nothing and they sleep in the open, outside people’s shop after close of business and when they are pressed they rush to the road side to defecate. Government should set up a task force to sensitize people, that open defecation is not good for them and the environment. May be it will reduce.

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