47 million Nigerians still defecate in open ― UNICEF expert

Says only 13 LGAs open defecation-free out of 774

No fewer than 47 million Nigerians are still practising open defecation across the country, a WASH specialist at UNICEF, Mr. Bioye Ogunjobi, has stated.

Ogunjobi, who stated this while speaking on “Overview of ‘Clean Nigeria: Use the Toilet’ campaign and key findings from Community Dialogue” at a two-day media dialogue on open defecation in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, said this represented 24.4 per cent of the country’s population.

At the event funded by UKaid and the European Union, Ogunjobi explained that the figures placed Nigeria atop the list of countries still engaged in open defecation in Africa and also ranked Nigeria second only to India in the world.

He noted that following this 11 per cent of children suffered diarrhoea in the past six months and that 76 per cent of the children are under five years.

Breaking down the figures, the UNICEF WASH expert explained that of the 47 million figure, 33 million more use unimproved toilets.

He also revealed that the North Central zone of the country has the highest prevalence of open defecation with 53.9 per cent,16 million people; followed by the South West with 28.0 per cent and South East with 22.4 per cent respectively.

The figures for the other geopolitical zones show that in the North East, 21.8 per cent; South-South, 17.9 per cent and North West, 10.3 per cent of the population practice open defecation.

The statistics, according to Ogunjobi was obtained through a WASH Lump Survey carried out by the Nigerian government with support from UNICEF.

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According to him, of the 744 local government areas in the, only 13 have been certified open defecation-free (ODF) and added that of the 13 ODF local government areas, 6 achieved the milestone with support from UNICEF.

He said the priorities now was for Nigerians to work together to “eliminate open defecation by 2025; bringing water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) to disadvantaged communities in rural areas; improving access to safe water and sanitation in schools and healthcare facilities and sanitation and hygiene promotion and awareness creation.”

He added that UNICEF had taken steps towards achieving these goals by “providing WASH services and infrastructure development in rural communities, schools, health care facilities” as well as “supporting the open defecation eradication Campaign plan led by the federal government.”

UNICEF, he added had recorded some achievements, saying “1.7 million people have gained access to improved water facilities and 2.2 million people have access to improved toilets” and that “3,908 communities have been supported to become certified open defecation-free (ODF) through community approaches” among others.

He said UNICEF was advocating for increased private sector engagement in the WASH sector, saying they could use their platforms to campaign for a clean Nigeria and end open defecation.

In an address, the Head, Child Rights Information Bureau of the Federal Ministry of Information, Abuja, Mr. Olumide Osanyinpeju, said the federal government recently declared a state of emergency in the WASH sector and was working at achieving the end to open defecation in Nigeria by 2030.

Osanyinpeju, who represented the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, said the federal government was working towards achieving this target and that the media parley was aimed at sensitising Nigerians with a view to increasing awareness in the need to end open defecation in the country.