The impact of open defecation extends beyond health risks; it particularly affects girls and women, depriving them of private and hygienic environments for managing menstrual hygiene.
For a decade, World Toilet Day has been an official United Nations International Day, usually observed on November 19 each year. Its official declaration took place in 2013 during the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly. This year’s theme is ‘Accelerating Change’, it is crucial to address a pressing issue that affects millions in Nigeria: open defecation.
Nigeria’s challenge remains significant, with 48 million of its population still engaging in open defecation, according to the 2021 WASHNORM report.
However, there is hope in reducing open defection and increasing the use of toilets through the focus shifted towards developing implementation strategies meant to adopt behavioural change as a solution to this pressing issue. 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.
According to a recent report published by Statista Research Department, on the availability of toilets in Nigeria, a survey conducted in 2020, 44.4 percent of the households in Nigeria had a toilet, water closet, or latrine inside the compound. Among the households without latrines or with facilities outside of the compound, the majority were located in rural areas.
“World Toilet Day is a UN day set aside to raise awareness campaign for people to understand the usefulness of having toilets and bring to fall the acceptance for people to construct and use the toilet in a safe way,” said Monday Johnson, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) specialist, UNICEF “An estimated 3.5 billion people still lack access to safe toilets of which 419 million practice open defecation globally,” he noted.
There is already some data pointing to south-west states of Nigeria ranking persistent practice of open defecation. According to data from the 2021 Water Sanitation and Hygiene National Outcome Routine Mapping (WASHNORM) report, a staggering 53.7 percent of Oyo State’s total population, amounting to approximately 5,020,920 residents, engage in open defecation.
Additionally, 43 percent of the population, roughly 3,621,520 individuals, use unimproved toilet facilities. The report further highlighted that a mere 8.4 percent of households in the state have access to basic handwashing services.
In the southwest region, Oyo State currently leads in the open defecation crisis, with 54 percent of its eight million residents participating in this practice, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Following closely is Ekiti State, with 41 percent of its population involved in open defecation, trailed by Ondo at 39 percent, Osun at 18 percent, Ogun at 14 percent, and Lagos State had the lowest incidence at 3 percent.
Adopting improved awareness
In the heart of rural Nigeria lies the Jago community, settled in the Ona-ara local government area of Oyo state. Despite vibrant communities thriving amidst challenges, a pressing issue demands attention – open defecation.
Olusegun Oparinde, Jago’s Baale, stands as a determined village leader striving to ignite behavioural change. Approximately two years ago, Oparinde became deeply concerned about residents practising open defecation in the surrounding bushes. He made diligent efforts to facilitate the provision of individual toilets for community members.
“Before now, it was only my house that had a functional toilet within the community, while the majority of villagers resorted to open defecation in the fields. This practice has led to illnesses such as cholera and increased exposure to dangerous animals like snakes. Some individuals defecate near the river, which serves as the primary water source for the community,” explained Baale.
In Jago, improved awareness is key. The introduction of the “Sato pan” has notably reduced the offensive odour associated with open defecation, contributing to a healthier and more pleasant living environment. However, the journey reveals the urgency for collective action and a transformation of habits to safeguard communities from the shadows of open defecation.
Supporting Why World Toilet Day Matters in Nigeria
With data on water, Johnson said there is a progressive increase in water supply, but a very low percentage of sanitation hygiene. This means that whatever gains increased access to water would have provided and taken away poor sanitation and hygiene. However, he also noted that global World Toilet Day is basically, to raise awareness, and call on the attention of everybody to come together and work towards accelerating change. “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,” he said.
Beyond the public health and environmental issues that can lead to the contamination of water sources and the spread of diseases, contributing to various health and sanitation problems. But with the strategy’s government should adopt creating an enabling environment for sanitation, increasing funding on sanitation financing on budget allocation on WASH, and building on human capacity and collaboration, it is possible to “accelerate change”.
Francis Ohanyido, a public health expert and director- of the general West Africa Institute of Public Health said it is crucial that we promote better public health and sanitation practices in Nigeria because is very important for all of us and for our well-being. But one of the sustainable ways to ensure more people adopt to use of toilets to reduce open defecation is by making them know it is an integral part of their lives and they should understand the possible outcomes if they fail to practice good habits.
“While the provision of proper toilet facilities is essential, it is equally important to promote the shift in people’s behaviour and attitude towards using the toilet facilities. it is important people are able to own the practice in their day-to-day lifestyle.
“We need to increase awareness campaigns, educating communities about the health risks associated with open defecation and using toilets is crucial, this campaign can be utilised in various mediums such as radio, television, posters and community gatherings to reach a wide audience,” he said.
Ohanyido explained that social norms and stigma are also adulated talking about proper cultural and social interventions. “We should know that stigma is essential to address the social norms and stigmas associated with open defecation.
“Also, promoting positive behaviour and highlighting the benefits of using toilets can help change societal attitudes towards open defecation, however, monitoring and evaluation, the country has to make sure that there is a good system in place some form of implementing mechanisms to monitor and evaluate progress in reducing open defecation is accountable and open access in such a way that everyone in the world will be able to know how far we have gone in following up on the issue,” he said.
It is important the issue of toilets is discussed across Nigeria because of its impacts on life, health, morbidity and economic loss which allows for effective behavioural change and influences policies and adjustments in implementation research which is very critical in terms of open defecation
One of the world’s toilet days is to raise awareness for the sanitation crisis across the world. The Nigerian government needs to increase their partnership with the private sector, increase its partnership with the Community Development Association, get community partners and help increase access to sanitation and hygiene.
Johnson said, that in the strategy of creating an enabling environment for sanitation, access will thrive, and this should start with the government’s showing a willingness to support increasing budgets on sanitation and hygiene.
“With this low percentage of the key drivers in WASH which is the software component on sanitation and hygiene, the WASH budget is always been put together, almost 70 percent of the budget usually go to water while only 30 percent will be allocated to sanitation and hygiene.
“We are also talking about sanitation financing, which is being done in different ways. One of them is the sanitation revolving loan where some funds can be set aside for the underprivileged, those people who don’t have funds to construct latrines to access those funds, be able to construct the latrines and then repay it at not more than a single digit interest.
“This will be the only way of increasing sanitation access then promoting sanitation product that is sustainable to the environment, now we know there is the issue of climate change. So, whatever we are providing to the communities has to be climate change resilient wants the community to be able to use it in a sustainable manner for a long time,” he said.