Ending The Practice Of Open Defecation In Nigeria


By James Akpan

The united Nation’s International Children’s Emergency Fund, UNICEF, defines open defecation as the practice of people going out in fields, bushes, forest, open bodies of water, gutter or other open spaces, rather than the toilet to defecate.

Open defecation is common within cities and towns in Nigeria, practiced by people, including commuters on the road whenever nature calls because public toilets are a rare sight in the country. Open defecation is the norm in many higher institutions of learning because the toilet facilities are not properly managed.

The practice is most common where sanitation infrastructure and services are not available. Statistics from the World Health Organization, WHO, have shown that about 892 million people representing twelve percent of the global population practiced open defecation in 2016.
However, in 2017, the Multiple Indicator Survey Report revealed that 28.5 percent of the Nigerian population practiced open defecation. Alarmingly, UNICEF report has indicated that Seven Hundred and Seventy One out of the Seven Hundred and Seventy four local government areas in Nigeria are still grappling with open defecation problem.

Nigeria has been rated as second behind India in terms of countries with the highest number of people defecating in the open while in Africa, the country was ranked first as at November 2018. This is really alarming. The age long practice of open defecation which has been visible across the country is being triggered by a number of factors.

They include, poverty, lack of latrines, and ingrained traditional cultural practices.
Moreover, limited or no access to water, sanitation and hygiene services has a lot of damaging effect on development outcomes, adversely affecting the peoples health, limiting their access to educational, economic opportunities and productivity.
This is true because according to the 2017 Water Aid report, over 122 million Nigerians still lack access to basic sanitation facilities. Shockingly, the practice that should rightly belong to the past is still in the ascendancy, despite the havoc it wreaks on the society.

Defecating anywhere and anyhow can bring infections to humans. Experts say defecating in the open provokes the outbreak of water borne diseases such as cholera, dysentery, especially among children.
The practice pollutes the environment and causes health problems. Basically, high levels of open defecation are linked to high child mortality, poor nutrition and large disparities between the rich and the poor.
Defecating outside is not limited to the rural communities alone. It is practiced even in urban centers where the population is thick.

Research has pointed out that a gram of faeces contains approximately ten million viruses, one million bacteria and a thousand parasite cysts.
Also, children’s faeces or excreta which are most likely to be handled carelessly contain more bacteria than adults.
In all these, action needed to be taken urgently because it is a civic responsibility for all in Nigeria to eliminate open defecation.

The Federal and States governments through the Water Resources ministry should evolve a road map to scale up access to water, sanitation and hygiene in their domains. The thirty million naira proposed by the Federal government to tackle open defecation in the country as part of National Campaign to end open defecation should be revisited for possible implementation.

More to that, tackling the menace of open defecation require ethical and attitudinal reorientation. By so doing, the Sustainable Development Goal Six of ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all would be achieved.
Therefore, all hands should be on deck to ensure that this uncivilized practice becomes a thing of the past on or before the 2025 deadline set by the Federal government to outlaw open defecation in Nigeria.

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