By Patrick Ugeh
As the world commemorates the World Environment Day, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has said there has been an improvement in the number of children saved as a result of reduction in open defecation.
“Testimonies to improved public health and a clean environment are common in the Open Defecation Free (ODF) communities,” it said in a statement made available to THISDAY Wednesday.
Linking sanitation to child health and protecting the environment, UNICEF noted that 90 per cent of diarrhoea cases in children under five were related to unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene and that reduction in open defecation could significantly reduce the incidences of diarrhoea.
“Open defecation causes contamination to water bodies and is a serious threat to public health especially during flooding. We know that by improving sanitation, we can improve child survival as well as the environment.
“In Nigeria, UNICEF, in partnership with relevant government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), non-governmental organisations as well as donors such as European Union and UK Aid, is supporting implementation of Community-led Total Sanitation (CLTS) in 30 states.
“As a result of this, there are more than 4,000 ODF claimed communities with over 3.8 million inhabitants now using toilets,” UNICEF said.
It added that with continuous support from governments and other partners in scaling up this approach, more Nigerians would live in open defecation-free communities.
“Although current sanitation coverage is low at 31 per cent, successful models like the CLTS approach have already demonstrated that it is possible to achieve quick progress in access to sanitation.
“With the right prioritisation of resources, political will and collective efforts, Nigeria can still make substantial progress towards attaining the MDG sanitation specific target,” the statement said.
“Nigeria has already demonstrated its commitment by successfully hosting the Presidential Summit on Water in February 2013.”
In Nigeria, it has been demonstrated that it is possible to improve the sanitation situation, especially in rural areas, by engaging the communities through CLTS approach. CLTS is a process of engaging with the community members ranging from individuals to schools and traditional leaders and empowering them to address their sanitation situation by ending open defecation and the use of toilets constructed by locally available materials.