Daily Trust (Abuja)

3 September 2014

Nigeria: 'Why Many Nigerians Defecate in the Open'

Kaduna — Many Nigerians defecate in the open because there are no good toilet facilities or conveniences within their reach, the Head of Department of Microbiology, Kaduna State University, Dr. Bimbo Orukotan, has said.

Over 113 million Nigerians defecate in the open because they lack sanitation facilities, according to reports in the national dailies recently.

Dr. Bimbo said in an interview that most of the people who defecate in the open may be carriers of typhoid fever, noting that the disease passes through faeces and when it rains, water washes the waste into vegetables, wells or broken pipes which can cause infectious diseases that are contagious through water and contaminated foods.

"If you go to the market or shopping malls where there are good toilets, people will not defecate outside. A lot of travellers defecate in the open because there are no public toilets on the roads. In some countries, when you are travelling, you will see public toilets by the roads for travellers, even if they have to pay to use them but when we don't have toilets, people will definitely defecate anywhere they see," she said.

Typhoid fever, she said further, is more prevalent in impoverished areas that are overcrowded with poor sanitation.

"When people defecate around, it affects our shallow wells in the neighbourhood and the same contaminated water flows to vegetables and fruits; in the case where they are not properly washed before consumption, the disease is transmitted," Bimbo said.

Also speaking, the Kaduna State Chairman of Nigeria Medical Association, Dr. Mohammed Sani Ibrahim, blamed the act on ignorance, saying a lot of people who defecate in the open, especially in the rural areas, do not know the implication of what they are doing. "Little do they know that rain washes the faeces into their wells and plants and some of them have wells as their only source of water for drinking and other domestic uses," he said.

He also blamed the act on poverty, saying some people desire to have a well built and clean toilet for their household but they cannot afford them, thus they make use of the bush or open field.

"Some people who have toilets in their homes still prefer to defecate in the open because they want fresh air while defecating and they also see it as fun, so much that some people go as far as escorting one another and jisting while defecating.

"Lack of adequate water supply to maintain toilets is another reason why some people defecate in the open. Many toilets are built where there is no constant water supply and because there is no water to frequently wash the toilets, they smell and people run away from using them especially students in boarding schools or hostels. Also, public toilets that are not well kept will be deserted by the people," he said.

He therefore urged government to build more toilets in strategic locations in the state, adding that people should be carried along in such projects so that they can have a sense of belonging and be motivated to use the facilities.

He also advised the poor masses who cannot afford to construct water closets to build Ventilated Improved Pit (VIP) latrines instead of defecating in the open; which he reiterated poses a lot of health and environmental hazards.

Some residents that were interviewed blamed government for not providing sufficient conveniences for the people; others blamed landlords who build houses without toilets while others blame perpetrators of such act for not being hygienic. Parents who allow their wards defecate outside are also blamed for not giving them the right training.

A resident who pleaded anonymity said: "I stopped using general toilet in my compound since I was infected with toilet disease. I suffered for over one year before I was finally cured. So since then, my body system has been programmed in such a way that, I go to an open field or bush very early in the morning when nobody can see me to defecate and that will be it for the day until the next day.

"If my parents are able to build their own house with a better toilet or if I get married and my husband lives in a comfortable house, then I will stop defecating in the open but for now, it is too risky for me," she said.

Another resident of one of the slums in Kaduna who does not want his name mentioned said, "I live in a general compound that accommodates about eight families but there is only one pit latrine, which obviously cannot serve everybody in the compound, so what we do sometimes is to defecate in a polythene bag and throw it over the fence. We call it 'shot put'. We know such act is bad but we cannot help the situation for now because when you are pressed, you need to just relieve yourself anyhow," he noted.

To Mr. Adeboye Babatunde, one of the advocates of clean environment in the state, lack of toilet facilities, which is caused by house owners who only build to collect money without caring about the welfare of their tenants, is a major issue that government must not allow.

"Some people can defecate anywhere especially when they are pressed while some believe that open-air defecating allows fresh and natural air, especially those who grew up in the villages where open defecation is not a crime. Also, in areas where water is scarce, open defecation becomes a culture because the people will do it freely and clean themselves with leaves or paper. Above all, some people are simply uncultured, uncivilised and poorly raised and will not stop such act because they don't see anything wrong with it," he lamented.

He therefore called on the state government and sanitarians in the state to rise to their responsibilities by ensuring that adequate toilets are provided, maintained and used by the people.

"People who have faeces around their houses or within their environments should be punished to serve as deterrent to others. Also, awareness should be raised among the people, including the rural dwellers, on the danger of open defecation," he advised.

Mrs. Maryam Bello, who resides in Kaduna metropolis, urged parents and school proprietors to ensure that toilet training is given to children both at home and at school so that they can grow up to know the right thing to do.

"Some children cannot defecate inside potty or in the toilet but on bare floor and this is simply because they were not trained to use such facilities, so it is very important especially for mothers. If children can be taught to maintain a clean environment, they will grow up to have a sanitised society," she said.

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