Open defecation is said to be affecting a third of Africans. It meant that international focus should be on the continent because knowing where open defecation occurs is important for its education and eradication. Evelyn Okakwu and Rachael Maza write on the need to tackle open defecation by providing toilets to the larger population.
Countless countries across the sphere are being categorized as ‘open toilets’ including Nigeria. It is estimated that more than a third of Africans practice open defecation. The effects of open defecation are serious; with urgent concerns of ground water resource pollution, contamination of agricultural produce. Consequently open defecation is a major contributing factor to a multiplicity of water and sanitation related diseases, such as diarrhoea, cholera and typhoid.
Not only is open defecation (and lack of improved sanitation facilities) detrimental to human health but also to economic and social development, e.g., the productive activities of impoverished populations, such as schooling, are severely restricted by ill health from contaminated water. Goals such as the Millennium Development Goals which aim at halving the percentage of the population that did not have improved sanitation in 1990 by 2015 seems to be unlikely at the current state.
In Nigeria, as in most parts of the world, the standard of living is pre-determined by the economic condition of the people. Previous reports have indicated that over 70 per cent of the population in the country are poor, living below 1 dollar per day. This economic situation has a co-relation with the hygiene of the people. The effect is that the standard of living, which includes the nature of houses, and other major requirements of the people are far from reach.
A significant consequence of the low income level of most Nigerians is that they subscribe to living in houses built in any manner without considering the feature of the houses, in relation to their health requirements, such as renting houses that have been built without toilets.
The world toilet day takes place on November 19, every year. This international day of action aims to break the taboo around toilets and draw attention to the global sanitation challenge.
According to the United Nations; 2.5 billion people across the world do not have access to a clean and safe toilet.
In 2001, the World Toilet Organization declared its founding day, 19 November, as World Toilet Day. Since then, 19 November has been observed globally by its member organizations. The World Toilet Organization is a global non-profit organization committed to improving toilet and sanitation conditions worldwide. WTO focuses on toilets instead of water, which receives more attention and resources under the common subject of sanitation.
A toilet is a sanitation fixture used primarily for the disposal of human excrement and urine, often found in a small room referred to as a toilet, bathroom or lavatory. Diseases, including cholera which the UN says, still affects some 3 million people each year, can be largely prevented when effective sanitation and water treatment prevents focal matter from contaminating waterways, groundwater and drinking water supplies. Infected water supplies can be treated to make the water safe for consumption and use.
According to the Global Water Supply and Sanitation Assessment 2000 by the World Health Organization, 40 per cent of the global population does not have access to “good” “excreta disposal facilities” they live mostly in Asia and Africa.
In Nigeria, these residents spoke about their economic status and its effects on their choice of houses. John Caleb a resident of Nyanya, a suburb in the nation’s capital, said he can’t stay in a house that does not have a toilet. “This is because a house without toilet is incomplete. I can’t even rent a house that does not have a toilet”.
His words, “I can’t imagine living in a house that does not have a toilet; it’s like living without good health. Where will I excrete? There will be no comfort for me in such a house. I rather manage a pit toilet than to have none” he said.
However, Uche Okolo another resident of Nyanya was quite different from Caleb as he said he can manage such a house, “If the house rent is not high and the environment is good I will not mind. The economic situation is forcing us to choose the easiest way to the safest. All I can do is to go out there and use the public toilet at least 20 naira will serve the purpose. Or if I am in an environment where I can use the ‘shot put’ formula (That is using a nylon bag), I will try it. Though, I know the first measure may not be safe for my health but I have to do it to survive. The main issue is to have where you will lay your head and sleep out your stress. Life goes on”.
He also said, “each time I used the public toilet I make sure I wash my hands to avoid contacting diseases as long as am using public toilet I have to be conscious with my health”.
According to Hauwa Bello a resident of karu, also a suburb in Abuja, “I can’t stay in a house that doesn’t have toilet because I don’t use public toilet. Even in my house I don’t use my visitor’s toilet not to talk of using a public toilet. As a lady I can’t imagine myself using public toilet and being comfortable. The nature and availability of the toilet should be the first thing to ask about when renting a house. I rather use pit toilet than none as long as it’s neat and usable. You will agree with me that such toilets are no longer in vogue in this
generation; Technology has taken that trend to the past. It may be likely in villages, but certainly not in places like this, in towns where modernization is in full practice; although once or twice, on may be tempted to use a pit toilet in a village setting; but such can only be in a village”.
Similarly, Anthony Luke, a resident of Asokoro Abuja says he is too fat to use a pit toilet and cannot imagine himself using one. “Sorry I can’t use pit toilet because of my size. Using pit toilet is stressful and therefore out of the option for me. I prefer the sitting toilet its make me comfortable”.
“Even in my village I don’t use pit toilet why will I now try that in the city, when I am capable of buying and fixing a WC in my house. I must wash my hands of course if possible you need to take a bath after using the toilet” he added.
As for Faruq Mallam he says; “I don’t remember to wash my hands after using the toilet. I am actually not too used to doing such. Though I know that it may be important, but I have not exactly practiced much of it”.
Ahamed Sani a residents of Utako village said, “I am not sure we have reasonable toilet around here we are still using the ancient toilets (pit toilet) the level of our poverty has confined us to the use of the pit toilet. It is not always easy. Everybody here is managing his life according to his income” he lamented.
Also Ruth Caleb a resident of Mararaba said, “My toilet is opposite my kitchen. This is how the house was built. Houses in this area have the same pattern and the toilet is always opposite the kitchen. When I build my house I will decide where the toilet and the kitchen will be. While living in this rented apartment, all I can do is to keep the kitchen neat to avoid any form of infection. Roselyn Emeka resides in Apo, but does business at Utako Ultra Modern Market; “In my house I have three toilets. I have the master bedroom toilet, the children toilet and the visitor’s toilet. The toilet is not being overused. We make sure they are washed and neat for use also to avoid dirt”.
On the other hand, Funke Ade who resides in Kurudu says; “We have only one toilet in the house and we are ten in the family. All we do is to wash it often. We have no choice because we are staying in somebody’s house, is just a matter of time”.
As stated above, the world toilet day has a soul objective of bringing international attention to the challenge of maintaining a good hygiene in the residential abode of citizens. It is the hope that as Nigeria joins the rest of the world in marking this important occasion, that the government and all stake holders will do the needful to improve the standards of accommodation and hygiene condition of the people.