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Wednesday, October 4, 2023

World Toilet Day: WaterAid calls for action amid worrisome report

Ahead of World Toilet Day on Monday, November 19, 2018 and following the recent declaration of a state of emergency in the water, sanitation and hygiene sector, WaterAid Nigeria has called on the Nigerian government to commence action towards prioritising sanitation for all. This follows a new report showing that the education and health of millions of children is threatened by a lack of access to toilets at school and at home.

Martina Ohaegbulem
Martina Ohaegbulem, 56, the deputy nurse in charge/midwife, showing the state of the toilets at the Zuba Primary Health Centre, Gwagwalada, Abuja, Nigeria.

“The Crisis in the Classroom”, WaterAid’s fourth-annual analysis of the world’s toilets, highlights that one-in-five primary schools and one-in-eight secondary schools globally do not have any toilets. Also, one-in-three of the world’s schools lack adequate toilets, compromising children’s human rights to sanitation and leaving them to either use dirty, unsafe pits, defecate in the open, or stay at home.

In Nigeria, 52% of schools are said to be without a toilet and around 62 million children do not have a decent toilet at home, implying that children are being dangerously exposed to illnesses that could kill them. Repeated bouts of diarrhoea presumably increase their chances of being malnourished, and sanitation-related illnesses result in missed school days and the loss of potential.

WaterAid Nigeria Country Director, Dr ChiChi Aniagolu-Okoye, says: “Toilets can make the difference between a child attending school, coming late or staying at home. School attendance and participation can be greatly enhanced just by providing toilets. Schools are where children learn how to become wholesome human beings and good toilet behaviour is a fundamental, yet children are going to schools with them. It is shocking that Nigeria ranks third in the world with the greatest number of individuals with no access to a decent toilet. This is unacceptable and even more sad as it contributes to the deaths of nearly 60,000 children under five every year from diarrhoea.

“Without ongoing investment and a concerted effort from all decision-makers, children, who are amongst the most vulnerable in our society, will continue to miss out on their futures. Also, citizens need to change their behaviour and take responsibility for having decent toilets at home as much as they hold government accountable for providing this basic service. Sanitation is a basic right for all and can’t just be an ideal. It must be a priority.”

Of the 101 countries with data available on how many schools have decent toilets, Nigeria ranks 11th and Guinea-Bissau comes last in West Africa. There, eight-in10 schools lack adequate facilities. This is followed by Niger, where only 24% of schools reportedly have even basic sanitation and more than seven in ten people defecate in the open because they lack a household toilet.

Some countries are however said to be making decent toilets in schools a priority. Over half of schools in Bangladesh now have a decent toilet and shared toilets in slum areas are providing a stepping stone to better health, says WaterAid.

Among the other findings in the State of the World’s Toilets report released by WaterAid:

  • Children living in communities without decent toilets are at higher risk of diarrhoea. Sadly, diarrhoea caused by dirty water and poor sanitation kills 289,000 children under five each year.
  • Diarrhoea and intestinal infections kill nearly 140,000 children aged between five and 14 each year – many of which could be prevented with clean water, decent sanitation and good hygiene.
  • Across South Asia, more than a third of girls miss school for between one and three days a month during their period.
  • As many as one in three schools in Madagascar don’t have any functioning toilets at all. It is the third worst country in the world for access to a decent toilet at home – just one person in 10 has at least basic sanitation.
  • Papua New Guinea comes third in the list of countries where the proportion of people with decent toilets at home and school is decreasing. There nearly 220 children under five die each year from water and sanitation-related diarrhoea, and polio – a waterborne disease – has recently returned to the island after being eradicated in 2000.
  • Nearly seven in 10 schools in Zambia now have basic toilets, and three quarters of children can complete their primary education.

Tim Wainwright, WaterAid’s Chief Executive, says: “Children in every country of the world need access to safe toilets at home and at school. Their health, education and safety depend on it. Every child should be able to go to the toilet safely and with dignity whether they are at school or at home. Bringing safe toilets to the one in three schools worldwide with no adequate toilets, should be a top priority – along with bringing decent household toilets to the 2.3 billion people still waiting.

“Progress towards any of the UN Sustainable Development Goals will not be possible without clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene. If we are serious about all children and young people, wherever they are, whatever their gender, physical ability or community background, having their right to clean water and sanitation, we must take decisive and inclusive action now.”

According to WaterAid, this year and as in recent times, the commemoration of World Toilet Day is driven by the aim to ensure that everyone has a safe toilet by 2030, in line with one of the targets of the Sustainable Development Goal 6. Nigeria is said to have made little or no progress in realising the target as less than a million people per year are gaining access to basic sanitation.

The 2018 World Toilet Day, themed: “When Nature Calls”, emphasises the need for exploring nature-based solutions to the current sanitation challenges Nigerians face as a nation and to provide sustainable resolutions through the functioning of natural systems.

The group says Nigeria must focus on harnessing the power of ecosystems in capturing and treating human waste to producing useful resources such as fertilisers to help grow crops. “It also means that we must not just focus on ending open defecation in Nigeria, we must also work to ensure that human waste that is captured does not still contaminate the environment and affect human health as well as livelihoods,” adds WaterAid.

“While we commend the recent launch of the National Action Plan to revitalise Nigeria’s water, sanitation and hygiene sector as a bold step in tackling the sanitation crisis, having a plan is not enough – the political will to implement it is also important.”

The organisation called for:

  • Prioritisation of sanitation at all levels through the value chain – capture to safe disposal – and improve budget allocations to the sector. Governments need to invest more money in sanitation and ensure an integrated approach and improved transparency in monitoring and reporting.
  • Education and finance ministers at state and national levels, as well as donors, to invest in sanitation services and establish credible plans for achieving universal access within an agreed timeframe.
  • Better coordination between key sectors ministries of to develop, implement and monitor joint programmes in order to measure the impact of interventions and contribute to data availability.
  • School sanitation to meet the specific needs of girls in order to ensure their privacy, safety and dignity when managing menstruation and on other school days.
  • School sanitation to be inclusive, enabling children with disabilities to use clean, safe, accessible toilets at school.

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