UNICEF says presently, no fewer than 120 million people in Nigeria lack access to improved sanitation facilities, thereby exposing them to public health hazards.
Kannan Nadar, UNICEF’s Chief Officer in charge of Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), disclosed this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, in Abuja.
He said Nigeria needed an investment of N850 billion for households to construct 25 million toilets by 2025.
According to him, reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) target on Sanitation requires Nigeria to multiply her current efforts by fifteen.
He said that Nigeria could achieve its target of meeting the National Road-map of Ending Open defecation by 2030, “if it puts policies in place to encourage behavioural change in sanitation and Hygiene.”
Mr. Nadar said that the agency had carried out a survey in some selected communities, and observed that there was a gap between knowledge and attitude in hygiene promotion practice.
“Such situation could be reduced with proper hygiene promotion messages,” he said.
He said 14,000 Nigerian communities have attained open defecation free status within the eight years of its intervention via the Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) Programme.
He noted that Nigeria was known for having sanitary inspectors, who carried out enforcement of hygiene practices.
“But the inspectors did not appear to have the needed encouragement; such practice should be encouraged by all, to reduce possible outbreak of preventable diseases,” he said.
According to him, Nigeria needs to scale up its hygiene promotion strategies to enable it become a social norm.
The UNICEF official, who said that the intervention was covering 200,000 communities, stated that poor persons were 36 times more likely to defecate in the open than rich individuals “due to the disproportionate distribution of wealth in the society.”
He challenged stakeholders to develop simple, better and cost effective messages that would enable more Nigerians change their behaviours towards hygiene promotion.
However, Nigeria being a signatory to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, needed to deliberately remove barriers to sanitation and hygiene problems in the country.
Ekiti has the highest number of residents, among Nigerian states, who defecate openly, two agencies have said.
The UNICEF and the European Union state that two in three Ekiti residents engage in open defecation.
According to a report jointly presented by the organisations at a two-day media networking and alliance building workshop on Water Sanitation and Hygiene held at Ijero Ekiti.
The report stated that of the state’s 2.7 million population, 1.8 million engage in the unhygienic practice.
The organisations said over 2.5 billion people lacked access to improved sanitation globally, out of which one billion were engaging in open defecation.