14,000 communities now open defecation-free in Nigeria —UNICEF

The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) said 14,000 Nigerian communities have attained open defecation free status within the eight years of its intervention via the Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) Programme.

Mr Kanaar Nadar, UNICEF’s Chief Officer in charge of Water Sanitation and Hygiene, disclosed this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja, on Thursday.

He said that Nigeria could achieve its target of meeting the National Roadmap of Ending Open Defecation by 2030, “if it puts policies in place to encourage behavioural change in sanitation and hygiene.’’

Nadar said the agency had carried out a survey in some selected communities, and observed that there was a gap between knowledge and attitude in hygiene promotion practice.

“Such situation could be reduced with proper hygiene promotion messages,’’ he said.

He noted that Nigeria was known for having sanitary inspectors, who carried out enforcement of hygiene practices.

“But the inspectors did not appear to have the needed encouragement; hygiene should be encouraged by all, to reduce possible outbreak of preventable diseases,’’ he said.

According to him, Nigeria needs to scale up its hygiene promotion strategies to enable it become a social norm.

The UNICEF official, who said that the intervention was covering 200,000 communities, stated that poor persons were 36 times more likely to defecate in the open than rich individuals “due to the disproportionate distribution of wealth in the society.’’

He challenged stakeholders to develop simple, better and cost effective messages that would enable more Nigerians change their behaviours towards hygiene promotion.

Nadar noted that Nigeria was a signatory to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, hence the need to deliberately remove barriers to sanitation and hygiene in the country.

Meanwhile, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Environment in Osun State, Mr Adewale Ojo, has said that residents of the state are more conscious of open defecation due to constant sensitisation.

Ojo told journalists in Osogbo that the major cause of open defecation in sub-Saharan Africa was absence of effective sanitary system.

“Apart from the aggressive campaign against the habit in the media, which the ministry had consistently  embarked upon, there had been frantic efforts to construct toilets for public use across the state.

“An agency under this ministry, the Rural Water and Environmental Sanitation Agency (RUWESA), had built hundreds of toilets across the three senatorial districts, and had continued to sensitise the public on the need to have functional toilets,” Ojo said.