Nigeria is on the verge of being ranked number one in the world with the highest number of people practicing open defecation.
Nigeria is set to take over from India who exited, the Federal government said. India earlier this month was declared open defecation free (ODF), after building over 100 million toilets across the country more than it had done since independence.
Open defecation in India, according to WHO had been reduced by 12 percent since 2014, nearly four times what was achieved between 2004 and 2014, with most rural dwellings becoming ODF by February this year.
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Nigeria currently ranks number one when it comes to open defecation in Africa and fears are that it would soon be declared the world’s number one.
“…We are on the brink of being ranked first globally, as approximately 47 million people do not have access to sanitation services in its most basic form,” Nigeria’s Water Resources Minister, Suleiman Adamu said Monday.
“Understandably, this is a serious concern to all of us as it has immense economic consequences and also hinders the social development of the country.”
One in four Nigerians, about 47 million people practice open defecation, according to the World Health Organization and UNICEF’s joint monitoring report – particularly in the north of the country where there is less access to good toilets. Fewer than half of households in Nigeria have their own toilets.
“Besides the exposure to diseases, there is a lack of dignity that is inherent in open defecation practices, particularly with regard to women and girls. As such, there is also a gender inequality issue which must be addressed with urgency.
“If effective solutions are not found, the non-availability of sanitation facilities inadvertently further exposes women and girls to violence including rape, when they are forced to go out at night to defecate in the open,” Adamu said while speaking at a two-day forum on Sanitation in Nigeria’s capital Abuja Monday.
In 2016, Nigeria developed and launched a National Roadmap to open defecation by 2025. The plan involved providing equitable access to water, sanitation, and hygiene services and strengthening tailored community approaches to total sanitation. However, only minimal progress has been achieved.
Also in 2018, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari declared a state of emergency in the water, sanitation, and hygiene sector all in the bid to tackle Nigeria’s worrying increase in open defecation.
Nigeria needs an estimated 959 billion Nigerian naira ($2.7 billion) to end open defecation by 2025. Of that, the government is expected to provide around 25%. The other 75% of the cost will be incurred by households.
“The majority of the costs to households will be spent on constructing toilets for those that don’t have [them], while funds from the government will be spent on public projects including ensuring access to toilet facilities at public places,” Zaid Jurji, head of WASH at UNICEF Nigeria said.
Nigeria needs to build two million toilets every year from 2019 to 2025 to reverse the trend. Bioye Ogunjobi, a WASH specialist for UNICEF, said the West African country is currently delivering about 100,000 toilets annually, which is woefully inadequate.
“The current effort is like a drop in the ocean,” Ogunjobi said.