Addressing open defecation

sanitationNovember 19 has been set aside by the United Nations to tackle global sanitation crisis. This year’s theme, “When Nature Calls” is to draw awareness to having access to toilets, improve hygiene and health around the world.  Answering the call of nature is about ejecting waste products from the body.   Exposure of excreta or urine into the environment is inimical to the health of human and the entire ecosystems because they carry germs.  When house flies or wind carry the exposed faeces, diseases are spread. It is because of this danger that the United Nations is emphasising the need for toilets in both our urban and rural communities.

Toilet facilities are built for the comfort of man to pass excreta at hygienic, safe, and convenient environments. Toilets should be freed from danger of defective structure, and should be located in a decent enclosed environment where the person can operate freely. Major victims of open defecation are women, adolescent girls and children; and it opens them to rape, snake bites or other forms of attacks. The commonest occasion when people defecate openly is when they are outside their homes.  Travellers have the highest tendency of answering to urgent call of nature inside bush. To avoid open defecation, travellers are advised to empty their bowels and curtail what they eat on transit.

Some rural communities, indigenous houses and low income earners in urban areas are guilty of lack of access to toilet facilities.  Public toilets are located in schools, markets and motor parks purposely to be shared among many people; an arrangement which can spread communicable diseases among the multiple users, when not managed sustainably.

We have different types of modern toilets such as water system, those with seats and those you can lap on, ventilated improved pit latrines, and mobile toilets.  Simple Pit Latrines are the conservative types which are not hygienic because it is susceptible to infections and unpleasant odours.  Pit toilets are dangerous and unsafe for kids, even adults including females, especially during menstruation. Girl child especially need to use toilet privately for them to be safe from sexual abuse and contribute to the society in terms of child bearing and training.

Recently, President Buhari declared State of Emergency on Water and Sanitation sector knowing the importance of Water supply to achieving sanitation in every areas of life. He approved 15 years Road Map and the implementation of Partnership for Expanded Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (PEWASH) for improvement and development of the sector to confirm his administration’s commitment to the course. Lack of access to water can affect levels of sanitation.  Water and sanitation are complementary; when you construct a toilet, you need to provide water to accompany it for safe management of excreta.  To avoid transmission of diseases, it is expected to flush and clean your hands after defecating.

In conclusion, toilets are indispensable facilities required both in rural areas and in the urban communities. Building professionals need to ensure that appropriate numbers of toilets are put into house designs and that city master plans should incorporate public toilets in markets, schools, motor parks and hospitals.

Legislation needs to be enacted against open defecation.  Water system toilets should replace the conservative pit toilets and access to water should be a priority.  Solid institutional frameworks need to be in place to regulate sanitation systems, while government should build good networks for sewerage treatment to manufacture fertiliser.  Campaign of behavioural change against open defecation needs to be intensified by the government.

Fashona, Esther

Folake (Ph.D.),



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