Katsina — UNICEF's chief, Water and Sanitation Section in Nigeria, Zaid Jurji, has said, Nigeria is ranked third when it comes to open defecation and something drastically must be done to halt the trend. He said the practice leads to spread of diseases in the environment.
"The situation of sanitation in Nigeria is a bit alarming on open defecation.
Jurji who said there is need to do something beyond the traditional approach, was speaking during a visit recently to Katsina State.
Open defecation was a serious societal and environmental challenge in Katsina given its high population and the grave consequences on health. Faeces not properly disposed lead to diseases like polio, cholera etc.
Open defecation is a common phenomenon across the state with many people resorting to nearby bushes to ease themselves.
Even schools are not left out with many not having toilets with both teachers and students defecating in surrounding bushes.
Worried by this situation, the state government keyed into the Sanitation, Hygiene and Water in Nigeria (SHAWN) project, a UNICEF, DFID supported programme which has drastically reduced the menace in the last two years.
About N1.5 billion was injected into the scheme being run in over 20 LGAs across the state. So far, over 174 communities have attained the UNICEF Open Defecation Free (ODF) status with many more coming on board this year.
The major goal of SHAWN is to reduce water-related diseases and improve health outcomes through acceleration and sustainable progress in safe excreta disposal, adoption of basic hygiene practices including effective hand washing at critical times and consumption of safe water in rural communities.
Another component under SHAWN, called Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) intends to sensitize communities to realize the dangers associated with improper sanitation and hygiene practices.
The communities are engaged to change their negative behavior through avoidance of defecating in the open, by construction and effective usage of household latrines, as well as observance of personal and environmental hygiene.
The Executive Secretary of the state Rural Water Supply and Sanitation (RUWASSA), Engr. Aminu Dayyabu, said the agency has taken a step further by commencing a pilot micro finance institute's loans for construction of household latrines in which so far 55 households have been selected from 11 wards of Bakori Local Government in the state.