These days, when Nigeria hits the international headlines, chances are that the news will be depressing. What has inspired the latest round is the shameful revelation that 34 million people in the country use the open fields, forests and bushes and bodies of water as convenience. But the cost of this unhealthy living conditions- of not having access to toilets – is expensive. Lack of toilets and inadequate sanitation has been linked to the health challenges afflicting the nation today, many of them fatal, particularly to children.
According to the joint UNICEF and the World Health Organisation report, lack of toilets remains one of the leading causes of illness and death among children. The report said that diarrhea, a disease often associated with poor sanitary condition, and respiratory infections resulting from poor hygiene, kills about 400,000 children, under the age of five, annually. “These are largely preventable with improvements in water, sanitation and hygiene,” said Goffrey Njoku, spokesman of UNICEF in Nigeria. Earlier last year, in a related report, both organizations also ranked Nigeria only ahead of China and India on the list of countries without access to potable water and where 20 percent of our population indulged in the shameful practice of “open defecation”. This latest report is evident that the country had not made any progress. Indeed, the figure is suggestive that more Nigerians now use the outdoors to ease themselves.
The UNICEF report was amplified by Dr. Michael Ojo, Country Representative of WaterAid to Nigeria, who brought the shame to almost every home. He said every seven in ten women in Nigeria have no access to a safe toilet, and more than 50 million Nigeria women and girls lacked safe and adequate sanitation, while 17 million do not have access to toilets at all. “Every year, over 85000 mothers in Nigeria lose a child to diarrhea diseases caused by a lack of adequate sanitation and clean water,“ said Ojo. “Women and girls living in Nigeria without toilet facilities spend 3.1billion hours each year finding a place to go to the toilet in the open.”
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