By Ndidichukwu Odoh
Open defecation-shitting in the open- is linked to the cause of deaths among children under five years old. In Nigeria only 11 Local Governments out of 774 do not practice open defecation and have been certified free. These 11 LGAs use toilets and each household have toilets, the children born in the communities are healthier and safe from childhood diseases.
The LGAs are Daas, Warji in Bauchi State; Birnin Kudu and Buji in Jigawa State; Ikom, Yala, Obanliku, Yakur, Boki and Berkwara in Cross River State and Logo in Benue State. The shortfall of Open defecation free communities makes Nigeria the country with the highest children’s deaths due to diarrhea.
United Nations Children’s Fund, (UNICEF),says more than 100,000 children under 5 years of age die each year due to diarrhea, of which 90 percent is directly attributable to unsafe water, poor sanitation, and hygiene.
According to the findings from the 2018 Water Sanitation and Hygiene, National Outcome Routine Mapping (WASH NORM) survey, Nigeria ranks second among countries practicing open defecation globally and 47 million people in the country practice open defecation.
But being an Open defecation free community is easy and requires commitment from Nigerian communities. This is how;
Officials of Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency (RUWASSA) and Local Government Area WASH department or the State Task Group on Sanitation (STGS) carry out an advocacy visit to sentitize and mobilize the support of political, traditional and religious leaders and community members. They seek their support in implementing a Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS)
During this phase, CLTS facilitators (LGA WASH/Local Partners and RUWASSA) engage community members to analyse their sanitaition practices and see how open defecation threathen the community. The community members decide to take collective action to develop a Community Action Plan (CAP) to improve sanitation and end open defecation. Sanitation marketing is conducted with displays of improved latrine options for households to select their preferred choice. Issues of inclusiveness are integrated into CLTS approach to ensure that the needs of all the groups are captured, without leaving.
Speaking with Bioye Ogunjobi, a WASH Specialist with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Post Triggering Activities for aspiring communities, he explained that,
“The WASH department a unit within the local government area and other local partners follow-up and monitor the CAP. Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency (RUWASA) provides supportive monitoring during this period”
He said When a community is able to curb the trend of open defecation, they self-declare that they are now ODF and inform the LGA.
“The LGA officials and other partners make four unannounced verification visits to the community to ascertain the status. Within the period LGA verification visits, officials of RUWASSA make a verification visit to 25% of randomly-selected ODF-verified communities.”
“The LGA officials forward the list of the verified communities to the state agency for onward dissemination to the State Task Group on Sanitation (STGS) for official certification.”
“The STGS officials hold a planning meeting with RUWASSA and the LGA Wash department or unit. The team makes unannounced certification visits to ODF-verified communities.”
“If the Community is really Open Defecation Free, the STGS makes a recommendation to the LGA and the State Government to officially declare the community ODF”.
“The National Task Group on Sanitation (NTGS) conducts a validation exercise on a randomly selected 10% of the communities in the entire LGA. If the validation is 100 percent- that is, all selected communities pass the certification criteria, the NTGS team makes recommendation to the Chairman of the NTGS, who informs the Minister of the Federal Ministry of Water Resources. Then, preparation for official declaration begins.”
“A certificate is awarded during formal ceremony anchored by the Minister, the State Governor, and the LGA Chairman to celebrate the achievement. The ceremony is usually attended by community members. State government officials, representatives of the LGA, NGOs, the media, members of neighboring Open Defecation Communities, and development partners.”
Children survive and live health healthy in communities that are hygiene conscious and maintain good sanitation by avoiding open defecation. Disease like cholera, diarrhea, and typhoid, are prevented and children are able to grow in a disease free environment.
The WASH NORM survey estimates that Nigeria loses about N455 billion of its GDP annually due to poor sanitation as a result of illness, low productivity, and loss of learning opportunities.