- Experts list health hazards, recommend affordable toilets
BY TIMOTHY AGBOR, OSOGBO
As at 2020, a survey conducted and published by Statista Research Department, on the availability of toilets in Nigeria, revealed that 44.4 per cent of the households in Nigeria had a toilet, water closet, or latrine inside the compound. Among the households without latrines or with facilities outside the compound, the majority were located in rural areas.
Three years after, the situation has worsened as more Nigerians continue to build houses without toilets. Both in cities, towns and villages of the country, most landlords and landladies consider the inclusion of toilets as luxury, especially when the buildings lack access to water.
“I would have loved to build a water closet toilet in my house but there is no source of water yet. My intention is to dig a well but I don’t have the financial means for now. It is after I have water that I can think of toilet. For now, myself and my family members go to a nearby bush to defecate during the day and at night, we make use of a plastic bowl inside the house and then dispose of the stool and urine very early in the morning inside the bush, that is how we have been coping,” said an artisan who lives at Oke-Baale Area of Osogbo, capital of Osun State.
Like this artisan who begged not to be named, majority of Nigerians consider owning places of convenience in their homes as a matter of choice, especially when there is no financial means for such.
As many residents take to bush and farmland whenever they want to answer the call of nature in their neighbourhoods, they tend to pollute the environment with urine and stool and also contaminate plantation,which would later be consumed by human beings.
The almost absence of public toilets in most parts of the country has worsened the ugly reality.
Checks by The Point showed that it is now a common sight in many villages, towns and cities to find people urinating or defecating either on the roadside or in seemingly obscure corners, sometimes in the full glare of passers-by.
Most motor-parks, public schools, markets, bus and train terminals, and public squares either have no toilets or poorly kept ones. It was gathered that even some of the nation’s airports and public hospitals have no functional toilets and where such facilities exist, they are poorly maintained.
Some Nigerians who spoke with The Point on what they do when the urge to ease themselves arise while journeying within cities or traveling, disclosed that they either make use of the bush if it is around, go into banks, petrol stations, eateries or shopping malls.
A man who simply identified himself as Bankole said, “It is always an unpalatable situation to find oneself in such a situation because you know the call of nature to urinate or defecate cannot be controlled or endured for long, so, one needs to answer it anyhow. Since there is no public toilet in most parts of Nigeria, you see most people go into the bush, especially when travelling, to either pass urine or defecate.
“I could remember a day when I was returning from school and heading home, I was feeling very pressed and I needed a toilet badly. I had to go into a bank, pretended as if I wanted to make a transaction and used their toilet. It was later when I got home and was sharing my experience with my friends that they also confessed that they usually make use of toilet facilities in banks, shopping malls and eateries whenever they were pressed in public. I think government should do something about providing decent public toilets,” he said.
According to data from the 2021 Water Sanitation and Hygiene National Outcome Routine Mapping (WASHNORM) report, 48 million of Nigeria’s population still engage in open defecation while 95 million have no access to basic sanitation services. With this development, experts said Nigeria’s goal to end open defecation by 2025 might not be met if something drastic was not done to stem the tide.
The global space is not free from this menace as Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) specialist of the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, Monday Johnson, revealed that “an estimated 3.5 billion people still lack access to safe toilets of which 419 million practise open defecation globally.”
The report also revealed that about 1.3 per cent of GDP or N455 billion is lost annually due to poor access to sanitation, healthcare savings and productivity.
Although the Clean Nigeria Campaign is working assiduously to improve the number of Open Defecation Free, ODF, Local Governments Areas, LGAs, in the country, statistics have shown that Nigeria needs to build not less than 3.9 million toilets annually to meet the 2025 target of open defecation.
Stakeholders, especially UNICEF, are not giving up. The marking of this year’s World Toilet Day on November 19 brought to the fore the optimism in addressing open defecation in Nigeria as UNICEF continues to rally stakeholders towards tackling the menace.
They said developing implementation strategies meant to adopt behavioural change was one of the solutions to the menace. According to them, achieving this requires a coordinated effort from governments, increased budget allocation to WASH, and creating an enabling environment for Sanitation, public–private sector partnerships and communities.
Already, some data pointed to South-West states of Nigeria as ranking high in the practice of open defecation. WASHNORM report shows that a staggering 53.7 per cent of Oyo State’s total population, amounting to approximately 5,020,920 residents, engage in open defecation. Additionally, 43 per cent of the population, roughly 3,621,520 individuals, use unimproved toilet facilities. The report further highlighted that a mere 8.4 per cent of households in the state have access to basic handwashing services.
While Oyo State currently leads in the open defecation crisis, with 54 per cent of its eight million residents participating in this practice, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, Ekiti State follows closely with 41 per cent of its population involved in open defecation. Ekiti is being trailed by Ondo at 39 per cent, Osun at 18 per cent, Ogun at 14 per cent, while Lagos State has the lowest incidence at three per cent.
The UNICEF WASH specialist, Monday Johnson, said defecating in the open could lead to disease outbreaks like cholera and hundreds of under-five deaths; reduced school attendance, stunting, wasting, malnutrition, poor productivity and loss of GDP.
Johnson said the global World Toilet Day was basically to raise awareness and call on the attention of everybody to come together and work towards accelerating change, adding that “to accelerate change means that individuals have to be the change that they want to see and it is everybody’s business to actually key into increasing sanitation outcomes that will actually bring about the expected benefit of consulting and using the toilet.”
For those complaining of Water Closet toilet being expensive, there is an affordable toilet popularly known as SATO Pan. This plastic-made toilet bowl built on a raised concrete platform needs little water to flush and it costs as little as N60,000 to build.
Jago community, settled in the Ona-Ara Local Government Area of Oyo State, has already embraced this SATO Pan and has been declared Open Defecation Free.
With the determination of its village leaders, Baale Olusegun Oparinde, Jago has championed the course of behavioural change that stakeholders seek. Approximately two years ago, Oparinde became deeply concerned about residents practising open defecation in the surrounding bushes and made diligent efforts to facilitate the provision of individual toilets for community members.
Meanwhile, some Nigerians have called on the Federal and State Governments to construct public toilets in nooks and crannies of towns and cities.
A resident of Oyo, Jemileyin James, said, “Government, both states and local governments, should build public toilets in all our markets and motor parks and every street of the town and monitor it. They should make people pay a token for their maintenance. It is bad that there are no more public toilets in Oyo and other parts of this country and our population is increasing daily.”
Also pleading with governments, Yomi Akindeko lamented the menace of open defecation, saying, “If you visit Lagos-Ibadan express way, most especially Academy Olomi under bridge, you will be shocked at the manner in which people pooh in public.
Same thing goes on at Beere, Iwo Road, Moniya and other parts. We need public toilets and task force to monitor compliance.”