As the international community celebrates World Toilet Day, UNICEF reveals that there has been limited progress in the past two years towards the fight against open defecation in Nigeria.
According to new figures to be released on citizens’ access to water, sanitation and hygiene services, the rate of open defecation has remained at 23 per cent, even as more than 46 million Nigerians still defecate in the open. Investigations show that Plateau, Ebonyi and Kwara states have the highest rates of open defecation, while Abia, Zamfara, and Akwa Ibom states recorded the lowest.
Furthermore, there has been some progress on ending open defecation, with 71 of Nigeria’s 774 local government areas now declared ‘open defection-free,’ up from 18 in 2019. States with the highest number of ‘open defecation-free’ LGAs are Katsina, Jigawa and Benue, with 21, 18 and 9, respectively.
Increasingly, Nigeria is making progress at improving access to water, sanitation and hygiene services to citizens, with 75 per cent having access to basic drinking water, up from 70 per cent in 2019. Access to sanitation (toilet and hand washing facilities) has also increased from 44 per cent to 46 per cent over the same period.
According to UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins;“It is clear that more needs to be done to ensure that all Nigerians have access to safe toilets and that we shift closer to ending open defecation across the country. With the Clean Nigeria campaign, we are making efforts but the citizens need to put their full weight behind it. We cannot afford to fail, as ending open defecation is crucial to making progress in many other areas including health.”
In November 2018, President Buhari declared a state of emergency in the water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) sector when he launched a national campaign tagged ‘Clean Nigeria: Use the Toilet’ to make the country open defecation-free by 2025.
“There is a clear commitment by the Nigerian government to wean the population away from practice of open defecation, a move that will help support better health outcomes for all, including children. The importance of adequate and safe sanitation, including proper hand hygiene practices cannot be over emphasised. It helps prevent illnesses that impact families’ livelihood, and more importantly, lives of children. We can and must achieve an open defecation-free Nigeria by 2025,” Hawkins said.