Open Defecation: UNICEF’ Builds 7,728 Toilet Facilities in North-east

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…As 32% in Yobe engage in open defecation

Onyebuchi Ezigbo and Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri

United Nations Children Fund, (UNICEF) has said that 7,728 toilet facilities were constructed for various communities in the North-east zone of the country between 2018 to date under its campaign against open defecation.

As part of a long term target plan to eradicate open defecation and other environmental sanitation problems in Nigerian cities by the 2025, UNICEF said an estimated $5.3 billion (or N1.9 trillion) will be required.

In his presentation at a Media Orientation Programme to commemorate the 2021 World Toilet Day in Maiduguri, Borno State, last week Thursday, UNICEF Officer-in-Charge of Maiduguri Field Office, Dr. Clement Adams, said: “Since 2018, UNICEF has supported state governments in the north-east with the construction and rehabilitation of 4,752 and 2,976 toilets respectively across IDP camps and communities.

” About 200 sites have been supported with hand pump boreholes while 126,690 non-food items have been distributed to displaced and vulnerable families”.

He expressed worry that 46 per cent of Nigeria’s population still engage in open defecation, with about 16 per cent of the population in Borno State and 32 per cent of the population in Yobe State involved in the distasteful act.

Apart from its health implications, Adams said that ending open defecation will help to protect the dignity of women and girls and also reduce the incidence of gender-based violence.

He said that at least 46 million Nigerians lack access to toilets and the protection they confer against diseases and possible deaths.

Adams however said across the country, at least 46 million Nigerians still lack access to toilets and the protection they confer against diseases and possible deaths.

“With about 16 per cent of the population in Borno State and 32 per cent of the population in Yobe state still practicing open defecation, all stakeholders must review existing mechanisms with a view to improving access to toilets, reduce disease outbreaks and tackle malnutrition in conflict-affected children,” he said.

The main objective of the UNICEF’s intervention, is to promote access to toilets, increasing the number of open defecation free communities in north-east Nigeria and improving the health and wellbeing of children.

Adams also said that achieving open defecation free society will promote the wellbeing of the workforce and contribute to the reduction of stunting in children.

Against the background of the federal government’s resolve to make the country open defecation free through the nationwide Clean Nigeria Campaign, Adams said it’s important that all states subscribe to the mission to become open defecation free by 2025.

He said states should take practical steps towards ending open defecation by constructing more toilets and water sources especially among the most vulnerable population whether in camps or host communities.

“Schools, markets and other public places must not be left out even as we promote behavioural change among the people.

“National and state budgets must reflect the importance of toilets and water sources to the health of children and workforce. We must prioritise investments in physical and human resources and scale up existing
programmes targeting expansion of toilet and water services.

“We must put our money where our mouth is. It is more cost-effective to construct more toilets for conflict-affected people than to treat endiess flares of cholera outbreaks with unnecessary mortalities. inability to access toilets is costly. It robs children of their health.

“When people die of cholera complications, children are sadly stripped of parental care and the most basic protection,” he said.

Adams pledged that UNICEF will continue to work with state governments and agencies in the north-east to promote the wellbeing of conflict-affected people and safeguard the rights of conflict-affected children to life and good health.

On her part, the UNICEF WASH Manager in Maiduguri, Mamita Bora Thakkar said
UNICEF has built capacities of state departments and local government areas to deliver safe and sustainable WASH services to communities and the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).

The UNICEF Officer while giving update on intervention activities, said that the UN agency had supported Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States to undertake rapid response to cholera outbreaks.

The UNICEF Programme Officer however said that the solution does not lie with just construction of toilets, but that there must be emphasis on safe and regular disposal of toilet substances and refuse bins to ensure clean environment.

Also she identified behavioral change as an issue that more campaign should be targeted at, especially among students and teenagers so that they can imbibe a good hygiene culture.

She said federal and state governments will need to trpple their current yearly spendings on sanitation programme and efforts targeted at ending open defecation.

She also called for behavioral change especially at the younger age, adding that there is need to start inculcating good hygiene practices among school pupils and within communities achieve the desired goal.

Thakkar spoke of the need to ensure access to clean water in households, schools and market places.

According to her, implementation of of a national campaign and transformational sanitation promotion agenda to end open defecation should be the focus of the federal government.

Thakkar also urged the federal government to declare a state of emergency on WASH campaign with states developing their own WASH action plan to realize the objective.

“About $5.3 billion (N1.9 trillion) will be required to achieve an end to open defecation in the country and address sanitation problems in the country,” she said.

Thakkar said that UNICEF has supported state governments in the North-east zone of the country with the construction and rehabilitation of 4,752 and 2,976 toilets respectively across IDP camps and communities.

Earlier, the General Manager, Yobe state Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency, Alhaji Abubakar Liman Baba said that presently
159 communities have been certified to be Open Defecation Free (ODF) in the Yobe while
107,000 Persons are leaving in ODF certified communities.

Baba said the agency has embarked on construction of latrines and water facilities in schools and Health Centers, adding that 3,593 safely managed latrines are now in place.

On the whole Baba said that 428 communities now have access to basic sanitation facilities across the state.

According to him, 30,081 persons have joined in using safely managed latrines.
“There are ongiong construction of 60 compartments VIP Latrines in Schools of Fune and Geidam Local Government Areaa with water facilities connection,” he said.

Speaking in similar vein, Borno state RUWASA Manager, Mohammed Musa Aliyu listed some of the achievements made by the state in tackling the problem of open defecation.

He said his agency has trained 2600 youths on advocacy against open defecation who have now been deployed to the rural areas to sensitize the people practices that will open defecation in their neighbourhood.

“We have also supported market associations in carrying out the campaign against open defecation in the markets.

“The state government has also been taking steps to maintain our Wash facilities in our communities and drilling of bore holes in various rural communities,” he said

According to Aliyu, UNICEF has also been supporting government’s effort in ensuring reticulation of the water facilities to reach the rural communities.

He further said the state government is currently providing water to the various IDP camps and making efforts to resettle displaced persons at the IDP camps back to their communities where they can live normal life.

“Borno State government has also approved the rehabilitation of over 300 bore holes in the state. Additional three mega water facilities is also being constructed along other solar energy operated water boreholes,” he said.