By Ndidichukwu Odoh
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says 53.9 percent of population practicing open defecation across the geopolitical zones of Nigeria are in the North Central States.
UNICEF Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Specialist Bioye Ogunjobi told journalist attending a media dialogue on Sanitation on Tuesday, in Kano State that 1 in 4 Nigerians defecate in the open while 1 in 2 persons in the North Central states of the country defecate in the open.
By this statistics, people living in states like Benue, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger and Plateau states are more than half of the estimated 47 million Nigerians who practice open defecation, hereby exposing the children under five years old in the states to diseases like Cholera, Typhoid, and diarrhea.
Ogunjobi told the media that poor sanitation increases the cases of diarrhea disease which is the second largest killer of children in Nigeria. He therefore called on policy makers to see access to toilets as a priority.
He said the UNICEF European Union funded project “Clean Nigeria: Use the Toilet” project is to sensitize Nigerians on the health risks of defecating in the open to bring about behavioral change.
“Aside from the public being aware and changing such behaviours, we want the decision makers to prioritize sanitation in federal and state budget allocation, ensure timely and full release of WASH funding and also make laws that promote safe hygiene” he said.
The UNICEF WASH specialist also emphasized the need to implement Open Defecation Free (ODF) roadmap at state and LGAs levels across Nigeria.
In his welcome remarks, Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammad represented by Mr Olumide Osanyipeju, Head, Child Rights Information Bureau of Federal Ministry of Information, Abuja, said Nigeria will launch a national campaign against open defecation.
He said “Open defecation and inadequate waste disposal is a huge challenge in Nigeria, which exposes people to diseases and it is a sad situation, we have to increase our sensitization to all Nigerians to support the campaign to end open defecation and protect our health by ourselves”