Dangers of open defacation in Nigeria
By Adeola Babalola
London, May 12, 2019 (AltAfrica)-Open defecation is a terrible and disturbing spectacle. This practice is specially associated with rural and poverty stricken regions of the world, especially Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.
Out of about 2.5billion people in the world that lack access to adequate toilets, more than 1billion defecate in the open which put individuals, especially the children in danger of various deadly facial-oral diseases such as diarrhoea and cholera. This absurd practice is common in Nigeria in general and South-West in particular.
Open defecation is emptying of bowels in the open without the use of properly designed structures built for handling human wastes such as toilet.
According to the UNICEF, out of 774 Local Government areas in Nigeria, 771 of them are seriously grappling with open defecation even as the 2016/2017 Multiple Indication Cluster Survey showed that 25% of Nigerians defecate in the open.
In ancient times, there were more open spaces and less population pressure on land which perpetuates the vicious cycle of diseases and poverty which is widely regarded as affront to personal dignity. Unfortunately, where open defecation is most practiced have high child
mortality, poor nutrition, poverty and large disparities between the
rich and the poor.
Open defecation pollutes the environment and causes health hazards. Unfortunately, out of three residents in Ekiti State, two engage in open defecation. This is the discovery of the UNICEF and the European Union (EU). According to these agencies, the state has the highest
number of residents in Nigerian states who defecate openly. Of the State’s 2.7million population, about 1.8million engage in this unhygienic act. This figure represents 60.8% of the total number of Nigerians who defecate openly.
The above scenario has therefore caused the European Union to finalize arrangements with Ekiti state government to finance the construction of public toilets in 14 towns in Gbonyin and Ekiti West Local Government areas.
The effort of Governor Fayemi must therefore be praised for taking necessary steps in ensuring that the promise he made to Ekiti people on the state attaining the open defecation-free status was kept. Ekiti people must be protected from preventable illnesses and life-threatening diseases.
Considering the above, therefore, relevant environmental bodies in the state must go into immediate action to ensure that the act is stopped forthwith. Areas such as Ajibade Lane, Oke-Ori-Omi, Oke-Ila, Okeyinmi, Odo-Ado streets, all in the state capital, and several other places known for this notorious act should be visited by these bodies with the intention of curbing the act in those areas.
Legal and institutional measures should be put in place to deal with people engaging in the act.
According to a World Bank figure released in 2018, about 42.34% of Indian population practiced open defecation which made the government of India worked out an initiative it called SWACHH BHARAT Mission (Operation Clean India) where large scale drive was initiated to construct toilets on a mass level, which got the serious unhygienic condition of the country greatly improved upon.
It is hereby recommended that Ekiti State should embrace this approach as a remedy to militate against open defecation.
The behavioural change of attitudes of the people should also be addressed. Even with provision of toilets, some people would still prefer to defecate in the open. So, government should concentrate every effort to make them cultivate the idea of using toilets for the betterment of the society.
A sustained attitudinal change campaign is hereby recommended.
***Adeola Babalola writes from the State Ministry of Information,
Tourism and Values Orientation, Ekiti State, Nigeria.