By Felicia Imohimi
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said on Thursday that Nigeria needed additional two million toilets annually from 2019 to 2025 to achieve the Universal Basic Sanitation target.
Mr Bioye Ogunjobi, a Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Specialist for UNICEF, made this known at a media dialogue on sanitation campaign, with the theme: “Clean Nigeria: Use the Toilet”.
According to Ogunjobi, at the moment, Nigeria is delivering approximately 160,000 improved toilets annually.
He, however, described the current effort as a drop in the ocean, saying that there was need for all stakeholders including the media to redouble efforts toward ensuring access to improved toilet facilities for the populace, especially those in underserved rural communities.
The meeting was organised by UNICEF in collaboration with the Child Rights Information Bureau (CRIB) of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture supported by European Union and UK Department for International Development (UKaid).
Delivering a paper on “Overview of” “Clean Nigeria: Use the Toilet campaign and key findings from community dialogue” he identified the country’s current delivery of improved toilet facilities annually as grossly inadequate.
He however attributed the low access to toilet facilities as a contributing factor to the rate of open defecation in the country thereby impeding on national development.
Ogunjobi specifically noted that open defecation had an economic, social and health impact on national development.
According to him, economically, Nigeria loses about N455 billion of Gross Domestic Products (GDP) annually due to poor sanitation as a result of illness, low productivity, loss of learning opportunities among others.
“Health wise, more than 100,000 children under five years die each year due to diarrhoea of which 90 per cent is attributed to unsafe water and sanitation and Nigeria is the second country with the highest children’s deaths due to diarrhoea.
“Open defecation impact on development as one in four children under five years exhibit severe stunting while one in 10 are wasted due to frequent episodes of diarrhoea and other WASH-related illnesses.
“It causes low productivity as frequent episodes of WASH-related diseases cause absence from school or work, as affected people take time off to heal and some to take care of a sick relative,” he noted.
The WASH specialist further said that open defecation contributed to poor education outcomes by reducing school enrolment and attendance due to time lost in search for water and frequent episodes of WASH-related illnesses among others.
Ogunjobi explained that issue of ODF was of great importance adding that based on empirical study, every naira invested in water and sanitation sector results in economic benefits ranging from N1, 080 to N12, 240.
According to him, the gains emanate from savings in health costs, increased productivity and entrepreneurial opportunities for sanitation markets.
The specialist explained that the “Clean Nigeria: Use the Toilet” campaign geared toward ending open defecation was a key initiative that would reach many underserved population.
He specifically noted that the primary objective of the campaign was to get 47 million Nigerians to stop open defecation and to use the toilet as well as increase access to improved sanitation, especially in rural communities.
According to him, to achieve this stride, Nigeria needs strong leadership and political will at all levels through increased budgetary allocation and implementation, among other things.
The WASH specialist further explained that the “Clean Nigeria: Use the Toilet” is an ambitious behaviour-change campaign in Nigeria with a strong citizen engagement component.