As the World marked this year’s World Toilet Day on Tuesday, a new report jointly published by the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council, WaterAid and Unilever has called on governments, including that of Nigerian, to keep their promises and implement the commitments made at national, regional (AfricaSan, SACOSAN) and global levels (Sanitation and Water for All).
Furthermore, they must significantly increase financial resources to the sector, use these resources wisely and ensure that the most marginalised and vulnerable people are targeted.
Presenting the report titled: “We Can’t Wait” at a United Nations event in New York, the three bodies called on governments (of both developing and donor countries) to strengthen the sanitation sector and bring the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target on sanitation back on track as an immediate and urgent political priority.
In the report, UN Deputy-Secretary General, Jan Eliasson, and Paul Polman, Unilever Chief Executive Officer, declared: “One person in three lacks access to adequate sanitation. The result is widespread death and diseases – especially among children – and social marginalisation. Women are particularly vulnerable. We simply cannot wait. By acting decisively we can now make a positive impact on global health, education, women’s safety, social equality and economic growth for generations to come”.
The report listed a number of recommendations to include: Sanitation should be integrated into education policy supported by sufficient resources and concrete plans; All schools should have adequate sanitation facilities including hand washing facilities and separate toilets for boys and girls with access for students with disabilities; Specific provision should be made in schools to establish proper menstrual hygiene management facilities; and, Hygiene promotion is featured as an important part of the school curriculum from primary level.
However, in a reaction to the report, Nigeria’s Water and Sanitation Media Network expressed regret that the Nigerian government has failed to fulfill any of the 26 commitments it made at the high level meetings.
’Nigeria has not fully achieved any of the 26 water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) commitments it voluntarily made in several high level meetings between 2000 and 2012. These commitments made at four high level meetings between 2000-2012: the World Summit in Johannesburg 2000; United Nations Assembly, New York in 2010; African Sanitation and Hygiene Conference, eThekwini in 2011; and the Sanitation and Water for All meeting in Washington, in 2012; but none of them have been fulfilled so far by the Nigerian government,” said the Water and Sanitation Media Network in a statement signed by his Chair, Babatope Babalobi.
“This explains why 35 million Nigerians still defecate in the open, about 90 million are without access to safe drinking water, and 130,000 under-five Nigerian children die annually from preventable water borne disease,” he added.
Some of these unfulfilled commitments include: Harmonisaiton of water and sanitation policies; Promoting WASH in schools; Intensify increasing water and sanitation budgets by 15 percent; Ensuring that at least 0.5 percent of the Gross Domestic Product is earmarked to promoting sanitation and hygiene; Declaring access to water and sanitation a human right; Encouraging state and local governments to create budget lines for sanitation; Scaling up community-led total sanitation in the 36 states; Increasing national access to improved sanitation to 65 percent by 2015; and, Increasing national access to improved water by at least five percent by 2014.
The body therefore called on the Federal Government in Nigeria to keep its promises and initiate practical policies, programmes and projects to develop the country’s WASH sector, and improve access to WASH services.
On the occasion of the 2013 World Toilet Day celebration , the Water and Sanitation Media Network urged the Nigerian government to stop “talking the talk” but start “walking the talk” because, according to the organisation, “33 million people are without toilets, over 868,000 Nigerian children die each year, about a quarter of which are from water related and vaccine preventable diseases such as pneumonia, diarrhea, meningitis and measles. And, according to a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report, Nigeria may not achieve the MDG water target before 2046 and that of sanitation by 2076.”