THE United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Wednesday called for a presidential task force to lead the response towards eradicating open defecation in Nigeria.
Mr Kanann Nadar, UNICEF Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Specialist, made the recommendation at the just concluded Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) Conference in Abuja.
He said the task force would act like the Presidential task force on Polio virus eradication that yielded positive results.
Nadar said the UN agency has been working in sanitation intervention and scale up in Nigeria through improving quality of CLTS interventions through a LGA-wide approach.
“There is need for all the WASH Sector players both government and development partners to adopt an LGA-wide approach in eradication of open defecation in Nigeria by 2025.
“There is need for presidential task force to lead the country’s response to eradication of open defecation in Nigeria like Presidential task force on Polio virus eradication that yield results,” he said.
The WASH specialist said that open defecation-free Nigeria was possible, saying that if Bangladesh and Peru could have reduced open defecation prevalence to single digits, it is possible for Nigeria.
He said Nigeria could achieve its target of meeting the National Roadmap of Ending Open defecation by 2030, if it put policies in place to encourage behavioural change for sanitation and hygiene.
Nadar said UNICEF had conducted a survey in some selected communities, and observed that there was a gap between knowledge and attitude in hygiene promotion practice, saying this can be reduced with proper hygiene promotion messages.
He said historically, Nigeria was known for having sanitary inspectors which carried out enforcement of hygiene practices, saying this should be encouraged by all, to reduce possible outbreak of preventable diseases.
The chief of WASH said 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.
Besides, he said that there was the need for all stakeholders to develop simple, better, cost effective messages that will enable more Nigerians change their behaviour towards hygiene promotion.
He said since the Federal Government was signatory to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, there is the need to deliberately remove barriers to sanitation and hygiene problems in the country.
However, Nadar commended the federal government for launching the Partnership for Extended Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (PEWASH) Programme, noting that the impact will also help in tackling open defecation.