• Wednesday, February 28, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

FG keeps mum over poor sanitation despite N455bn annual GDP loss

poor sanitation

Nigeria loses about 1.3 percent (N455 billion) of its gross domestic product (GDP) annually due to poor sanitation, according to a report by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF). A third of that cost is as a result of open defecation.

More than 100,000 children under the age of five die each year due to diarrhoea, and over 90 percent of this is directly attributed to unsafe water and poor sanitation.

Despite the huge cost of poor sanitation and open defecation, the Federal Government appears less concerned about tackling the situation which experts say is a menace.

Nigeria currently ranks second among countries practicing open defecation globally and first in Africa, with over 47 million people engaged in the practice, a study has shown.

Over 122 million Nigerians lack access to basic sanitation facilities, according to a 2017 WaterAid Report which ranks Nigeria as the third worst country with poor access of its citizens to essential sanitation facilities in rural and urban areas.

Bioye Ogunjobi, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) specialist, quoting the recent UNICEF report, told BusinessDay that Nigeria loses over N450 billion annually due to poor sanitation as a result of illness, low productivity, loss of learning opportunities, amongst others.

“Nigeria is the second country with the highest children’s death due to diarrhoea; 1 in 10 children are wasted due to water, sanitation and hygiene-related illnesses. Open defecation results in loss of dignity and increases the risk of insecurity, violence against women and children,” Ogunjobi said.

Suleiman Adamu, former minister of Water Resources, said at the National Council on Water Resources meeting held in Abuja in November 2018 that India had exited from its number one position in the list of countries with poor sanitation and open defecation and that it would be a “national shame’’ for Nigeria not to do the same.

“Three years ago, only 40 percent of Indians were using toilets but now, 95 percent of Indians are practising full sanitation practices. The Indians have not only stopped to defecate in the open, they are also recycling their waste into usable products; they have experienced a lot of transformation within three years,” Adamu had said.

“In the last three years, the Indians have built 80 million toilets; we need this kind of quantum leap in our country. By next year, wherever you go in the world, you would hear that Nigeria is number one in open defecation; that is a national shame which we must not allow to happen,” he had said.

The former minister had promised that the Federal Government would soon enter into a technical cooperation with India to salvage the Nigerian situation.

But open defecation has continued in the country unabated. According to findings, 53.9 percent of the people living in the Nigeria’s North Central practice open defecation, followed by South West with 28 percent of its population involved in open defecation, and South East with 22.4 percent. Similarly, 21.8 percent of the North East population, 17.9 percent of the South South, and 10.3 percent of the North West practice open defecation.

The proportion of social sector spending on sanitation in the country is not enough as it has recorded steady decline over the years, Ogunjobi said. He added that over 66 percent of schools and 88 percent of hospitals still lack access to basic sanitation services.

He further explained that every amount invested in the water and sanitation sector results in economic benefits through health care services, increased productivity as well entrepreneurial opportunities.

Sola Thompson, health practitioner, told BusinessDay that addressing sanitation issues in Nigeria requires strong commitment from political leaders at all levels, especially as it relates to eradication of open defecation.

“There is need for increased budgetary allocation as well as strong political commitment in leadership at all levels to improve sanitation and end open defecation,” Thompson said.

“The government is rather not concerned about the issues of poor sanitation. We record several cases of deaths and illnesses among children. Government should ensure that children have a healthy living by investing more on sanitation issues,” he said.

Thompson stressed the need for policy and institutional environment that promote sanitation at the national and sub-national levels, adding that with current trend, achieving open defecation-free society by 2025 was not realistic.

“There is need for the government to see this as a critical issue and address it accordingly,” he said.

 

CYNTHIA EGBOBOH, Abuja