No Toilets for 100 Million Nigerians

United Nations Children’s Fund identifies lack of improved toilet facilities as responsible for the spread of cholera in Nigeria

By Vincent Nzemeke  |  Dec. 2, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

MORE than 100 million Nigerians lack access to improved toilet facilities. According the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, more than 100 million Nigerians lack access to improved toilets facilities, while more than 45 million defecate in the open. This lack of toilet facilities is said to be one of the factors responsible for spread of cholera and other related diseases in various parts of the country.

Although the UNICEF revelation came as a surprise to many, it is actually a reminder of the situation in some parts of Nigeria where a good toilet is a luxury. For a country that has an abundance of slums and rural settlements across its various states, open defecation which is the major cause of cholera is still a common sight. Even in Abuja, the capital city, there are hundreds of houses in the satellite towns without toilets.

In the light of this development, the federal ministry of health decided to organise a sensitisation event to mark the world toilet day in order to educate the citizens about the dangers of open defecation. Speaking at the event, Onyebuchi Chukwu, minister of health, said the outbreak of cholera in Nigeria could be checked if the citizens had access to improved toilet facilities. Represented by Sani Bala, permanent secretary, ministry of health, Chukwu said the federal government, in collaboration with international development partners, introduced community-led total sanitation, CLTS, initiative with the aim of mobilising communities to take actions toward stopping open defecation.

“As part of efforts to promote total health in Nigeria, the federal ministry of health will align with all relevant partners to implement appropriate interventions to ensure clean environment for healthy living. The occurrence of cholera epidemics could be stopped if there is a mechanism to stop open defecation which will prevent contamination of water sources and food.”

Chukwu also commended stakeholders for promoting increased access to improved toilet facilities and added that that scaling up access to toilets would reduce mortality and morbidity rates. Tolani Busari, head of governance, WaterAid Nigeria, called for increased financial commitment to promote good water supply and sanitation for the health of Nigerians.

Kannan Nadar, chief, water, sanitation and hygiene officer of the agency, said at a news conference that the lack of adequate toilet facilities and indiscriminate disposal of faeces posed great danger to public health. “Access to toilets remains the unmentionable, shameful secret for even some very prosperous countries but its invisibility does not make it harmless; in fact it is quite the reverse. Lack of access to toilet is quite literally killing children, making adults sick, and slowing progress day after day.”

Nadar said that a document released by the federal ministry of health revealed that between September and October, there were 2,771 cases of cholera with 124 deaths recorded. He stressed that the issues of inadequate toilet facilities needed to be addressed to reduce the disease burden in Nigeria.

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