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Addressing open defecation through enhanced sanitation services

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By agency reporter

The importance of maintaining clean environment and stopping open defecation cannot be over-emphasised.

Experts say that unclean environment and open defecation contribute immensely to several health challenges in any society.

The Head of Environmental Health Department, School of Health Technology, Kankia, Katsina State, Malam Sanusi Umar, said that environmental sanitation reduces spread of diseases, reduces dangers of pollution, and improves one’s life.

Umar also said that open defecation could lead to outbreak of diseases like cholera, dysentery, typhoid, and other water and environment related diseases.

Open defecation, he said, could also lead to the pollution of surface water.

That is why governments at all levels, donor agencies, private sector and other stakeholders continue to join hands to encourage a stop to the practice.

Available statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO) indicates that the practice should be a source to worry to lovers of sanitation and a clean environment.

The data shows that about 779 million people worldwide lack access to safely managed sanitation.

The UN agency further said that out of the number 208 million people still defecate in the open.

According to data from the Nigeria’s Ministry of Water Resources about 46 million people defecate in the open in Nigeria.

WHO has established a nexus between sanitation and the ability of countries to meet Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Some of the SGDs that have links to sanitation are good health and wellbeing (SDG no.3); clean water and sanitation (SDG no. 6); life on land (SDG no. 15); quality education (SDG no.4).

“Safely managed sanitation services will lead to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) target 6 and essential for the realisation of other SDGs”, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said at a recent event to commemorate World Toilet Day.

The event had as its theme: “Groundwater and Sanitation- Making the Invisible Visible”.

The director said that WHO and UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme report on progress of drinking water and sanitation, highlighted the fact that “only 29 per cent of healthcare facilities in Africa have basic sanitation services”.

Minister of Water Resources, Alhaji Suleiman Adamu, said the Federal Government was working towards mitigating the impact and spread of certain diseases such as cholera and dysentery by ending open defecation nationwide.

He said the impact had already been felt in Jigawa, the only state to be declared Open Defecation Free (OFD) by National Task Group on Sanitation

“I hope more states, communities, and local governments will embrace the campaign and end open defecation,” he said.

In Katsina State, the Clean Nigeria Campaign, which is aimed at providing more sanitation services to reduce open defecation, is being implemented by the Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency (RUWASSA).

The RUWASSA Executive Director, Alhaji Aminu Dayyabu-Safana, said that the state has recorded success towards ending open defecation by 2025.

Dayyabu-Safana said that out of the 34 Local Governments Areas in the state, 24 have already been certified as Open Defecation Free (ODF).

He also said it was in recognition of the achievement that, “Katsina RUWASSA was awarded as the best performing agency in Nigeria in terms of sanitation” during the just concluded summit on World Toilet Day, 2022, in Abuja.

“If not for the security challenge in the front line local governments, we would have become the first entire state to be certified as ODF,” he said.

He expressed optimism that with improvement in the fight against the insecurity challenge, the remaining local governments would also be certified ODF by the first quarter of 2023.”

“We believed open defecation is the largest contributor of diseases in rural communities.

“So, stopping it has really helped people to improve their health status. We measured that through the report we are getting from our ward sanitation officers.

“Attaining ODF is a milestone, while sustainability is the keyword; we will engage Imams and Pastors to make sermons on Fridays and Sundays on the importance of using toilets and maintaining clean environment,” he said.

Malam Aliyu Muhammad, a resident of Musawa Local Government Area, Katsina State, expressed delight over the efforts to eradicate open defecation in the state.

Muhammad said that it has helped them to live a healthy life and use the money they have been spending on healthcare services for other purposes.

Experts say that a clean environment is a healthy environment. The cleanliness of our environment will be enhanced if every stakeholders contributes the quota to end open defecation in the country.

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