Abuja – Health and environmental experts have called on governments across the country to take urgent steps to curb the menace of open defecation prevalent in the country.
Speaking to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in a nationwide survey they said this was necessary to guard against outbreak of diseases especially as the rainy season set in.
Dr Okon Udom, Department of Public Health, University of Uyo Teaching Hospital (UUTH), told NAN that open defecation should be discouraged by all governments.
He, therefore, suggested the building of toilets in public places and street corners.
Dr Cliff Okafor, Executive Director, Community Health, Education and Development in Africa, a Non-Governmental Organisation, said open defecation was a major cause of hand-to-mouth disease.
Okafor, a medical practitioner, told NAN in Port Harcourt that open defecation was also a terrible source of pollution.
“When people defecate in open places, flies perch on it and bring it back to our food, plates and homes.
“This is why we have high cases of typhoid, dysentery in this country.
“In open defecation, hook worm gets to the ground and gets back to the individual through the foot and other parts of the body, especially, intestine,” he said.
Okafor said that enlightenment campaigns should be carried out in schools, to educate pupils and students on the dangers of open defecation.
“There is need to carry out public education in our schools. We should educate our children to impress on the older people to stop the habit.
“I am sure this will assist to stop the bad habit among the older people,” he said.
In addition, he said, such facilities must have adequate running water and called on governments at all levels to provide public lavatories and running water in all public institutions, to avoid outbreak of diseases among citizens especially in children.
NAN survey also revealed that most people indulged in open defecation due to lack of toilet facilities in their houses or work place.
Similarly, there is a dearth of toilets in public places in most major cities and towns across the country.
Mr Kingsley Ubah, a 24-year-old mechanic in Port Harcourt, said that he indulged in open defecation because there was no toilet in his rented apartment.
“Where I live in Diobu, Port Harcourt, there is no toilet in the compound. The tenants resort to self-help by going to other homes, while we defecate in the open near our workshop.
“I am aware it is a bad habit and not environment friendly, but we call on government to ensure that every house has a toilet,” he said.
Also Mr Michael Etim said that most travellers coming into the city with nowhere to stay usually defecate into drains, cellophane bags and on roadside, as there were no public toilets.
“Public toilet is necessary at all strategic locations in the metropolis to minimise occurrence of open defecation,” Etim said.
He added that in most rural settings and coastal communities, open defecation in the nearby bush or river bank was a normal culture.
Another respondent, Miss Ekaette Bassey, said that most landlords in cluster areas of the town did not have good toilet system for their tenants.
Bassey said that most residential buildings had over 20 tenants with only one toilet to serve all of them.
She observed that in such compound, people would resort to defecating openly as the toilet facility was insufficient for the occupants.
A nurse, Mrs Tessy Alaba, said, “People who live in densely populated areas and over-populated apartments such as `face-me-I-face-you’ are rated high among those that practice open defecation.
“The number of toilet facilities is not adequate for the great number of people living there.
“Again, some houses that were built many years ago may either not have modern toilet facilities or have toilet facilities that are not functional or filled up.
“This compels the occupants to seek alternative defecating places, and this is where the issue of awareness comes in.
“Many people may not be aware of the implications of defecating anyhow and anywhere; more so, some people may know but do not care,’’ Alaba said.
“There is need for provision of public toilets throughout Lagos State, and not just to be restricted to the Parks and Gardens alone.
“The Master Plan contains the sites and locations for public toilets within and around the metropolis.
Adejare said that the ministry would also encourage market women and shop owners to provide mobile toilets for their use, and for the use of their customers.
Similarly, the Jigawa Ministry for Local Government and Community Development said that it was collaborating with Non-Governmental Organisations and other Development Partners to discourage open defecation in the state.
Alhaji Yakubu Auyo, the Director of Primary Health Care in the Ministry, who spoke on behalf of the Commissioner, Alhaji Ahmed Muhammad, told NAN in Dutse that the ministry had established Water and Sanitation Departments in all the 27 local government areas of the state, with a view to ensuring good sanitation of the environment.
He said that N200,000 was earmarked for each of the councils for the monthly sanitation exercise, to ensure a clean environment and campaign against open defecation.
According to him, the council had constructed water and sanitation facilities in the local government areas, to prevent open
defecation in markets, motor parks and places of worship.
The commissioner said that UNICEF was supporting the ministry under the State Hygiene and Water Sanitation in Nigeria (SHAWN) working in some communities to discourage open defecation.
“The organisation also taught the communities how to construct pit latrines.”
In Maiduguri, the Borno State Environmental Protection Agency (BOESPA) said it would employ no fewer than 5,000 additional youths as street vanguards, to check the menace of open defecation and environmental abusers.
The Sole Coordinator of the Agency, Alhaji Nasiru Surundi, told NAN in Maiduguri that the gesture was part of the measures adopted by BOSEPA to discourage such abusers of the environment.
Surundi said that N600 million had been spent on procurement of high-quality sanitation equipment to enhance quality of health, safe and clean environment.
“We are constantly challenged by this negative behaviour of residents towards environmental issues, ranging from indiscriminate littering and open defecation, among others.
“My members of staff are working round the clock to ensure that the environment is always clean.
“We have stationed 50 of our vanguards in each of the nooks and crannies of Maiduguri Metropolitan Council and Jere.
“Each of the groups was given 200 litres of fumigation chemicals for spraying in culverts, dump sites and so on.
“We also give them chemical sprayers, vapour, hand- hygiene and protectors, excavators and others for proper sanitation.
In Osun, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Mr Adewale Ojo, said the habit of open defecation had been reduced to the barest minimum with the efforts of the ministry.
He said that the state government gave priority to environmental sanitation, to ensure better quality of life for citizens.
“An agency in this ministry, Rural Water and Environmental Sanitation Agency, had built hundreds of toilets across the three senatorial districts.
“The agency has continued to sensitise the general public on the need to have functional toilets.
“There is a grassroots campaign ongoing at the villages around the state to discourage open defecation and make their environment more habitable,’’ he said.
Besides, the respondents agreed that the one of the easiest way to curb the menace is through public enlightenment especially among children.
Mrs Adanma Agomuo, a retired school principal, said that children and the youths should be re-orientated and taught the values of hygiene.
“Presently, we have a challenge of rampant open defecation at hand, but we can also start by grooming our children on the importance of hygiene.
“Hygiene should be introduced as a subject into the school curriculum, right from the Early Childhood Education.
“Let children know that it is not good to defecate in the open, teach them hand-washing, and not to litter their environment; they should imbibe these as a way of life,’’ Agomuo said. (NAN)