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World Toilet Day: Makurdi decries inadequate facility, WaterAid paints gory picture

As the world observed this year’s edition of the World Toilet Day on Saturday, 19th November, 2016, residents of Makurdi in Benue State have decried the lack of maintenance of toileting facilities and inadequate provision of latrines in the urban area.

A floating public toilet on the Amassoma River in Bayelsa State. The World Toilet Day 2016 was observed on Saturday, November 19. Photo credit: Jack Jackson
A floating public toilet on the Amassoma River in Bayelsa State. The World Toilet Day 2016 was observed on Saturday, November 19. Photo credit: Jack Jackson

Speaking to this writer on Monday in Makurdi, Executive Director of First Step Action for Children Initiative, Mrs Rosemary Hua, stated that there is dearth in the proper usage of toilets due to lack of awareness, lack of maintenance of toilet facilities as well as bad attitude.

According to her, even in public places, there are toilets but the maintenance is poor like in most schools, adding that it encourages open defecation as people readily use surroundings of unkempt public toilets for convenience.

“Public toilets are neglected even in local government areas where Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) is been implemented due to non-availability of running water among others,” she said. “The attitude of people is so bad that most don’t feel it is their responsibility cleanings toilets or using them properly and believe someone else should clean their mess.”

She maintained that the change in behaviour of citizens, government and other stakeholders to knowing the benefits of the proper use of toilets and sticking to the practice, constant awareness campaigns and follow up and the enforcement of sanitation laws would greatly help improve the use of toilets in urban areas.

In another interview, a health worker, Mr Andyar Kuma, noted that people still defecate indiscriminately in the open in urban areas, citing example of the environs of the popular IBB Square and J.S Tarka Foundation in the heart of Makurdi metropolis.

“People’s mentality towards use of toilet is poor and, coupled with lack of maintenance of public toilets, achieving complete Open Defecation Free (ODF) may be difficult except Urban CLTS is aggressively implemented,” he said.

Also speaking, a resident of Wadata area of Makurdi town and housewife, Mrs Mary Agbo, lamented the poor state of the two toilets they have to share in a compound housing five households of not less than five persons per household.

She stated that it is difficult to conveniently use the toilet, especially in the mornings when there is rush by co-tenants to access them and virtually little water to flush except they buy water.

According to her, her husband’s income as a security guard in one of the government offices cannot afford them the luxury of relocating to a more habitable residence with good toilet facilities.

She called on government to make the concerned agency to enforce sanitation laws which she believed would compel landlords like theirs to provide more and better toilet facilities for them.

In his submission, a truck pusher at the Wurukum Market who identified himself simply as Terfa stated that he knows there is a public toilet nearby but doesn’t use it. Asked why he doesn’t use the toilet, he said it is not properly maintained to his taste, adding that he also has to part with money before usage so he prefers to use a nearby bush which is free early in the morning when very few people are around.

He however feigned ignorance on the ills associated with the practice of Open Defecation stating that rain would wash his faeces away into the river, so he doesn’t care.

A caretaker at a residence along Belta Street, High Level, Makurdi, Mr Liambee Achir, stated that he knows the benefits of proper toilet use, hence he went out of his way to seek the permission of the landlord to construct a personal toilet for his family use on an open space in the compound.

“I spent my money to construct the toilet as the available two are usually miss-used and inadequate to serve us all. Now, I have the comfort of adhering to good sanitation by maintaining my toilet to the best of my ability,” he noted. “I don’t regret constructing the toilet as the benefits are beyond what I spent for the project.”

To observe the World Toilet Day, information provided by WaterAid Nigeria in a press statement endorsed by the Communications and Campaigns Manager, Oluseyi Abdulmalik, and made available to this writer, stated that, following the release of new analysis showing Nigeria ranking third in the world and the worst in sub-Saharan Africa for having the most urban-dwellers living without a safe, private toilet, WaterAid Nigeria is calling on government to keep its promise to deliver universal access to sanitation.

It quoted WaterAid Nigeria Country Director, Dr. Michael Ojo, as saying: “For the first time in history, more than half of the world’s population is now living in towns and cities. By 2050, that’s expected to rise to two-thirds. But for many, particularly the poor, they’re arriving or being born in overcrowded and rapidly expanding slums which lack safe, private toilets and clean water sources. Diseases like cholera or Ebola can spread further and faster without sanitation and hygiene practices to block their path and an outbreak found in a slum can quickly become a city-wide, national or international epidemic. This World Toilet Day, we are calling on our leaders to deliver on their promises to meet the UN’s Global Goal 6 to bring water and sanitation to all, because everyone – no matter where they live – deserves affordable access to these life essentials.

“Our analysis shows just how many nations in the world are failing to give sanitation the political prioritisation and financing required – with Nigeria featuring strongly at the top of that list. The dirty issue of sanitation is too often neglected. But good sanitation is the bedrock of public health. The Federal Government recently launched the Partnership for Expanded Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (PEWASH), a national multi-sectoral collaboration for the improvement of rural water supply, sanitation and hygiene. This is a great start tackling lack of access in rural areas, but with the recognition of this as a growing urban problem, there is a need to quickly focus on measures, with government leadership, to address this scourge in our towns and cities. Every town and city in the world needs to prioritise providing safe sanitation services to all the population in order to create a healthier, more sustainable future,” added Ojo.

The press statement also says WaterAid’s Overflowing Cities: The State of the World Toilets report looks at the problem of urban sanitation and the health threats to our world, as the UN predicts by 2050 two-thirds of the global population will live in towns and cities. Nigeria too has a huge population and extremely rapid rural – urban migration; however, economic development and urban planning have not kept pace with the sheer volumes of people arriving – and being born – every day in its towns and cities.

“The report highlights the challenges facing 700 million urban dwellers around the world living without basic sanitation, 58 million of whom are in Nigeria. The problem is so big that 13.5 million people living in Nigeria’s towns and cities have no choice but to defecate in the open using roadsides, railway tracks and even plastic bags dubbed ‘flying toilets’. Nigeria also ranks top in the countries falling furthest behind in reaching people with urban sanitation. For every urban dweller reached with sanitation since 2000, two were added to the number living without, an increase of 31 million people in the past 15 years,” said the statement.

Stressing further, the statement said, the 2016 World Toilet Day highlights the fact that improved sanitation impacts not only health but livelihoods too, and has the potential to transform societies and economies by amongst other things, creating new green jobs and a healthier, more sustainable future.

“According to our own recent assessment of WASH facilities in Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs) conducted in our six focal states – Bauchi, Benue, Enugu, Ekiti, Jigawa and Plateau – 21.1% of the facilities assessed did not have at least one toilet facility and none met the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) minimum standard of separate toilet facilities for males and females, as well separate toilet facilities for staff and patients. Only 27.6% of the 242 PHCs assessed met NPHCDA minimum standard of access to a motorised borehole. Across the six states, only 49 (20.2%) of the PHCs had hand-washing facilities in toilet facilities. Hand-washing facilities were observed in delivery rooms in only 133 (54.9%) of the facilities assessed. The ward and consulting rooms had hand-washing facilities in 64 (26.4%) and 74 (30.5%) of the facilities respectively, suggesting poor hygiene practices in the health centres.

Within the Sustainable Development Goal committing to ensuring everyone has access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene by 2030, we want to see healthcare facilities prioritised – no new hospitals or clinics should be built without water and sanitation,” it opined.

Therein, the statement outlined the following findings from WaterAid’s Overflowing Cities: The State of the World Toilets report and made the following call respectively.

Findings on Nigeria:

  • Nigeria is third, after India and China, on a list of top 10 countries with the most urban dwellers without safe, private toilets (by numbers).
  • Nigeria is ranked third on a list of countries with the most number of urban-dwellers practicing open defecation and tenth on a list of countries with the most percentage of urban-dwellers practicing open defecation.
  • Nigeria is ranked number one in the list of countries falling furthest behind in reaching people with sanitation in urban areas.
  • Between 2000 and 2015, there has been a significant increase in the number of urbanites without improved sanitation, (nearly 31.5 million people.

WaterAid is calling for:

  • Everyone living in urban areas, including slums, to be reached with a toilet to ensure public health is protected.
  • More money, better targeted and spent, from governments and donors on sanitation, clean water and hygiene for the urban poor.
  • Coordination from all actors in the sanitation chain including governments, city planners, NGOs, the private sector, informal service providers and citizens.
  • Sanitation workers to be given the respect they deserve with stable employment, safety and decent pay. Without them healthy communities and cities are impossible.
  • The Nigerian Government to ensure that schools, healthcare facilities and birthing centres have safe toilets, clean running water and functional hand-washing facilities, to reduce maternal, newborn and child deaths and strengthen children’s ability to attend school.
  • WASH to be positioned as a crucial contributor to health and for policy makers and health sector stakeholders to become aware of the link and crucial role that sanitation plays in improving child survival rates and health outcomes.
  • The inclusion of water, sanitation and hygiene into health plans, policies and programming and especially in plans to address under-nutrition and acute malnutrition.

By Damian Daga

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