In 2000, the number of people worldwide who practiced open defecation was around 1.3 billion, and in the span of 17 years, the number went down to 670 million people. This was nearly a 50% decrease, according to World Bank. However, the number of people still defecating in the open remains high and the problem needs addressing, which is why countries, such as Nigeria, are tackling the issue head-on. Here is some information about how some are attempting to eliminate open defecation in Nigeria.
About Open Defecation
Open defecation involves a person “passing excreta in open-air locations instead of in hygienic, covered locations,” and can be detrimental to populations due to its potential to cause health problems. The countries with higher rates of open defecation have the highest numbers of malnutrition, poverty and deaths of children 5 years or younger. Open defecation can harm and negatively affect the health of countries’ populations through the contamination of drinking water and the spread of contagious diseases such as cholera, diarrhea and dysentery. Children become most vulnerable to such diseases, and with the elimination of open defecation, the number of premature deaths will also decrease, according to an article from the World Health Organization (WHO).
Nigeria’s Challenge with Open Defecation
An estimated 50 million Nigerians still defecate in the open. Despite its population of about 200 million people, it surpasses India’s numbers, whose population is 1.3 billion people, meaning that the proportion of Nigerians openly defecating is much larger than that of India. Though linked with poverty and poor sanitary facilities, the practice also happens in tertiary institutions as well as in rural areas. Not even one-third of Nigeria has access to basic sanitation, and the numbers have only grown since 2015. With these numbers come the consequences. Poor sanitation, poor education, premature deaths and economic loss affect the country as well.
Solutions for Open Defecation in Nigeria
Despite the high statistics regarding open defecation in Nigeria, the country is attempting to tackle the problem. Nigeria has made progress toward improving sanitation through its “Clean Nigeria: Use the Toilet” campaign. This national campaign aims to completely rid the country of open defecation by 2025 through the encouragement of hygiene behavior in 47 million Nigerians.
Parts of Nigeria, such as the Cross River State, which refers to the Southeastern region, have made progress within the country after becoming the first open defecation-free local government area. Since its introduction in 2019, the campaign has also seen success through the support it received from UNICEF in 2021.
The goals of the campaign are the following:
- Political Commitment — Help fund and allocate funds for the campaign in conjunction with political support.
- Media Support — Gain support from the media to raise awareness of basic hygiene and sanitation.
- Proper Funding — Increase support for sanitation in underdeveloped areas.
- Collaboration with Local Groups — Local and civil society organizations join the campaign.
- Hygiene Awareness Promoted Through Businesses — Work with businesses and corporations to bring awareness through branding and promotion.
With proper support and funding along with collaboration with organizations and media, the “Clean Nigeria: Use the Toilet” campaign can work toward the shared goal of eliminating open defecation in Nigeria — and maybe beyond.
– Michelle Sheen