The United Nations Children Fund on Wednesday raised the alarm that poor hygiene and entrenched culture of open defecation among millions around the world would continue to put children and their communities at risk. The situation had reached a worst dimension in Nigeria where about 119 million people were not using safe toilets. The agency’s Communications Specialist (Media and External Relations), Mr. Geoffrey Njoku, said this in a statement issued in Abuja in commemoration of this year’s World Toilet Day.

He said, “Some 2.5 billion people worldwide do not have adequate toilets and among them one billion defecate in the open. Here in Nigeria, about 119 million people are not using safe toilets while 50 million out of this number defecate in the open. “Nigeria is among the top five countries in the world with high population practising open defecation and the number of open defecators has been on increase since 1990. Lack of a safe, clean toilet and practice of open defecation seriously impact people’s health, wellbeing and dignity as well as efforts towards poverty reduction, economic and social development and the environment.”

According to UNICEF, there has been an upsurge in cholera cases in Nigeria which is primarily due to poor sanitation and hygiene practices in the country. Quoting the recent epidemiology report from the Federal Ministry of Health, the agency said 34,825 cases of cholera was reported as against 2,882 cases over the same period in 2013. Every year over 150,000 Nigerian children die from diarrohea alone, largely caused by unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene practices.

Njoku said, “The call to end the practice of open defecation is being made with growing insistence from the United Nations which is being led by the office of the Deputy Secretary General, encouraging countries to prioritise investments in sanitation and develop appropriate interventions to end this menace.

“In response to this call, the Nigerian government has shown commitment to end open defecation by 2025, a target which is not only commendable but achievable, considering Nigeria’s potential. A country that has 75 per cent of its households having mobile phones can easily mobilise the people to have simple toilets and end open defecation. “Towards achieving the set target, UNICEF Nigeria is supporting the government to develop a national roadmap for the elimination of open defecation in the country by 2025.”

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