Health in Africa

After India becomes ODF, Nigeria faces a mounting challenge

The African nation is set to replace India with the largest number of open defecators

By Sushmita Sengupta
Published: Thursday 04 April 2019

Nigeria is just behind India in terms of individuals defecating in the open, according to the United Nations. As the Indian government gears to declare the country open-defecation free (ODF) October 2019, Nigeria is set to replace India and become the country with the largest number of open defecators.

According to media sources, the government of Nigeria is worried over the issue. In April 2018, the Nigerian government declared a state of emergency on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), with particular emphasis on sanitation.

In November 2018, Nigeria launched the National Action Plan for revitalisation of the WASH Sector — a 13-year plan of action. In February this year, the governments of India and Nigeria coordinated a study, with the support of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and other development partners, to help the African delegates gain insight from the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) — the sanitation programme in India.

“The collaboration was done so that Nigeria can apply the principles of SBM in their country,” WASH specialist at UNICEF India, Sujoy Mojumdar said during a pan-Africa meeting on sustainable rural sanitation, organised by Delhi-based non-profit Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

Following the study tour, the national 'Clean Up Nigeria – Use a Toilet' campaign was launched by Nigeria Minister of Water Resources Suleiman Hussein Adamu on March 14, 2019, with the aim to end open defecation by 2025.

According to the National Outcome Routine Mapping (NORM) report 2018, Nigeria loses around $1.3 billion per year due to poor sanitation, as per media reports. Adebayo Olalekan Aloa, WASH lead at WaterAid Nigeria, said around 155 million Nigerians have no access to functional, private or accessible toilet facilities with proper faecal sludge management.

This means that the country will face difficulties in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals on sanitation by 2030. A WaterAid report states that around 1 lakh children under the age of 5 die each year due to diarrhoea — about 90 per cent of this is due to unsafe water and sanitation.

“Nigeria is the second country after India with the most child deaths due to diarrhoea,” added Aloa. In Nigeria, one in four children under the age of 5 exhibit severe stunting; while one in 10 are wasted, due to frequent episodes of diarrhoea and other WASH-related illnesses.

According to Aloa, the North Central part of Nigeria is the worst in terms of open defecation — out of 47 million Nigerians that practice open-defecation, 16 million live in the North Central.

Different types of containment structures are used by the country, but these are not technologically sound and as a result the excreta coming out of toilets ends up contaminating the water sources.

Aloa adds that there are huge challenges in emptying the sludge once the toilet pits are full. Over and above this, the country also needs to work on the usage of toilets — many toilets remain unused as water is not available.

Hence, apart from managing toilets, the country needs a detailed plan on collection of faecal sludge, its treatment and reuse as biogas and fertilisers for farms.

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