The United Nations (UN) recently ranked Nigeria fifth among countries globally, where open defecation is common.
In a recent report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), its shows that the number of people with access to improved sanitation facilities in Nigeria dropped from 31 per cent last year to 28 per cent of the population this year. By implication, about 122 million Nigerians presently do not have access to improved sanitation, while a staggering 39 million, about 23 per cent of the population, defecate in the open.
Consequently, 500,000 Nigerian children die every year from diarrhoea and respiratory infections alone. While diarrhoea is responsible for 194,000 deaths, according to the report, respiratory infections kill another 240,000, while the country loses a staggering N455 billion annually to poor sanitation. Open defecation costs Nigeria some $1billion annually.
The study further revealed that each person practicing open defecation spends almost 2.5 days a year finding a private location to defecate, leading to a loss of $243 million yearly in access time. The study disclosed that $13 million is also lost annually due to productivity loss when people fall sick, adding that a whopping $191 million is spent annually on health care, which includes the costs of consultation, medication, transport and hospitalization.
It revealed that 70 million Nigerians use shared latrines, while 32 million do not have latrines at all. For Nigeria to eliminate open defecation, it would have to build 6.5 million latrines and ensure they are used.
Over one billion people around the world relieve themselves in bushes, fields, roadsides or railway tracks for lack of even a basic, shared pit in the ground. This is 14 per cent of the world’s population, or one person in seven. Since 1990, almost 1.9 billion people gained access to improved sanitation globally, of which Nigeria accounted for approximately 13 million. In 2011, the total number of people without access to latrines stood at approximately 2.5 billion.
According to the UN, Nigeria has now emerged as one of the top five countries in the world where many citizens prefer to defecate in the public. Unfortunately, the federal government has continued to treat the sanitation sector with kid’s glove.
The Minister of Water Resources, Mrs. Sarah Ochekpe, while hosting the United Nations Deputy Secretary General, Jan Eliasson recently, disclosed that the budget allocation for the sub-sector is usually struck out by the National Assembly, forcing the Ministry to scavenge for funds from donor partners.
She noted: “Sanitation has not been given the attention it deserves in this country because budget appropriation for the sanitation sector is usually struck out by the Senate during defense, so we had to depend on funds coming from development partners for the course of activity during the year. We all know this is not good for the growth of the sub-sector.”
When people urinate or defecate in public places such as markets, church premises, stadiums, airport terminal buildings, bus stations, petrol stations, or street corners, according to experts, “they not only help poison the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat and our environment, they also contribute significantly to shortening human lifespan.”
Studies by experts have also shown that one gram of human feces could contain more than 10 million viruses, one million bacteria and 1000 parasite eggs.