No fewer than 49 million Nigerians still defecate openly, a UNICEF Water Sanitation and Hygiene Specialist, Mr. Bisi Agberemi, has said. He also said this at the ongoing two-day National Stakeholders Workshop on “Roadmap for Ending Open Defecation” in Abuja on Wednesday. He said that the Federal Government must speed up efforts to eliminate open defecation in the country, adding that open defecation remained the leading cause of preventable child deaths.

He added that only 64 per cent of the world’s population had access to improved sanitation, stressing that it was sad to note that Nigeria was still among the top 10 countries practising open defecation. Agberemi quoted the 2013 National Demographic Health Survey, which shows that only 28.7 Nigerians have access to basic sanitation facilities. This, he said, needed to be scaled-up through continued sustainability of practices, such as hand washing, to achieve an open defecation-free Nigeria.

He, however, called for the review of obsolete public health laws and implementation of policies to meet the 2025 target. The specialist also called for increased funding of sanitation issues, saying that awareness should be promoted at all levels of government. “We must all work together to advocate for the harmonisation of sanitation policies and cultivate the attitude of cleanliness at all times,” he said.

WaterAid’s Country Representative, Dr. Micheal Ojo, said cycle of illnesses still persisted in communities lacking sanitation facilities. He said that access to safe water and secured toilets were necessary for all, saying that “defecating in the open is like we are infecting ourselves.” “In communities where there is open defecation, there are diseases like diarrhoea, dysentery, cholera and gastroenteritis, killing children under five years,” he explained. Ojo said open defecation was still causing Nigeria to lose millions of naira annually, saying the issue needed to be dealt with in order to secure the nation’s future.

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