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WaterAid Nigeria demands urgent actions on World Toilet Day

‘State of the World’s Toilets’ report reveals lowest rates of access to sanitation

Dr. Michael Ojo, WaterAid Nigeria’s Country Representative
Dr. Michael Ojo, WaterAid Nigeria’s Country Representative

On the occasion of the 2015 World Toilet Day, WaterAid Nigeria is calling on government to commit to delivering universal access to sanitation, following the release of new analysis showing which countries in the world have the worst rates of access to safe, private toilets.

WaterAid’s first “It’s No Joke – State of the World’s Toilets” report (www.wateraid.org/worldstoilets) reveals the hardest place in the world to find a toilet, where you’ll find the most people waiting, and which developed nations are also facing their own challenges on sanitation.

The report summarises the global sanitation situation and highlights amongst other things, the worst 10 places in the world for a toilet, the least and most improved, with country snapshots for maternal mortality rate, child mortality rate, life expectancy, stunting and average per capita gross national income (GNI).

The world’s youngest country, South Sudan, has the worst household access to sanitation in the world, followed closely by Niger, Togo and Madagascar.

The report features Nigeria significantly as one of the most failing on access to sanitation. Nigeria, sub-Saharan Africa’s largest economy, is in the unfortunate position of being the third most regressive country in the world on sanitation. On this list, Nigeria, which is now classed as a lower middle-income country, is runner up to Georgia, the former war torn Soviet republic and Djibouti, a tiny fragile country that was also racked by civil war.

According to WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) figures, Nigeria now has 71% of its people without access to safe, private toilets (that is over 130 million people) and 25% practicing open defecation. More worrying, WaterAid’s new report shows that the number of households in Nigeria with access to sanitation has declined by 9.1 percentage points since 1990. This is the second-greatest decrease of 38 countries with measurable data in Sub-Saharan Africa. This takes a heavy toll on Nigeria’s people. An estimated 11 children in every 1,000 die of diarrhoeal illnesses each year in Nigeria, and 58 out of 100,000 births result in the mother dying of sepsis. To change this situation will take political commitment and financing from the very top. Nigeria needs to measure up to its status as a middle-income country and finance its infrastructure accordingly. This means mobilising domestic resources, including through taxes and tariffs, and making effective use of traditional aid to target poor people.

Promoting the health benefit of sanitation is also key to improving sanitation practices in Nigeria. Access to safe sanitation, and ensuring that everyone in a community uses a toilet, is vital for ensuring better health and an important measure in addressing under-nutrition linked to chronic diarrhoeal illnesses.

The report highlights the plight of more than 2.3 billion people in the world who do not have access to a safe, private toilet. Of these, nearly 1 billion have no choice but to defecate in the open – in fields, at roadsides or in bushes.

The result is a polluted environment in which diseases spread fast. An estimated 314,000 children under five die each year of diarrhoeal illness which could be prevented with safe water, good sanitation and good hygiene. Many more have their physical and cognitive development stunted through repeated bouts of diarrhoea, blighting their life chances.

Among the report’s other more interesting findings:

  • India, the world’s second-most populous country, holds the record as the place with the longest queues for toilets and the most people per square kilometre practising open defecation.
  • Nigeria is third on the list of countries in the world with the longest queues for toilets and sixth in the world with the most people practising open defecation.
  • The tiny South Pacific island of Tokelau has made the most progress on delivering sanitation since 1990; impressively, Nepal, despite the immense challenges posed by its mountainous landscape, comes in the top 4 in this category.
  • Not everyone in the developed world has toilets. Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Sweden are among nations with measurable numbers still without safe, private household toilets; Russia has the lowest percentage of household toilets of all developed nations.

WaterAid Nigeria Country Representative, Dr. Michael Ojo, said: “Just two months ago, member-states of the United Nations promised to deliver access to safe, private toilets to everyone everywhere by 2030. 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. We also know that swift progress is possible, from the impressive advances in sanitation achieved in nations like Nepal, Vietnam and even Rwanda which is on the African continent. No matter where you are in the world, everyone has a right to a safe, private place to relieve themselves, and to live healthy and productive lives without the threat of illness from poor sanitation and hygiene. On this World Toilet Day, it’s time for our leaders and the world to make good on their promises and understand that the state of the world’s sanitation is no joke.

“The implications of a lack of access to basic sanitation reach beyond health. It affects gender equality, education and economic development. Goal 6 of the newly-agreed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aims to deliver access to water, sanitation and hygiene for everyone everywhere. Without achieving this goal, the world cannot achieve many of the other goals – it can’t end hunger and malnutrition, or ensure gender equality, education and healthy lives for all. Ultimately, it can’t deliver on the overarching aim – a world free from extreme poverty by 2030.

“It’s a huge and ambitious task but it can happen, because it has happened before. In the UK, in Europe, in South Korea, in Singapore, and in many other countries, strong leadership, political will and sufficient funding for sanitation have dramatically changed public health and modernised societies. Yes, even in Sub-Saharan Africa, where Angola for instance has seen the most improvement in sanitation since 1990, followed closely by Rwanda and Ethiopia.  It will need determination and commitment but we can and must get there. We need to hold our leaders to account and make them deliver on their promises to reach everyone – including the poorest, most vulnerable and most marginalised people in our society.”

WaterAid’s analysis of the state of the world’s toilets has exposed some revealing facts: in many cases, nations that need to make great strides on sanitation are falling behind, with devastating consequences for health, education and women’s safety. We need leaders worldwide to state publicly that sanitation is crucial and to prioritise and fund it accordingly. And it’s not enough to just deliver toilets. Transforming hygiene behaviours and making sure that everyone within a community is able to use a toilet – regardless of age, gender or ability – so that they are used by everyone is key to realising the full health benefits.

This World Toilet Day, WaterAid is calling for:

  • Nigeria and world leaders in general to fund, implement and account for progress towards the new UN Global Goals on sustainable development. Goal 6 – water, sanitation and hygiene for all – is fundamental to ending hunger and ensuring healthy lives, education and gender equality.
  • An improvement in access to basic sanitation with political prioritisation and long-term increases in financing for water, sanitation and hygiene, by Government at all levels.
  • The Nigerian Government  to ensure that schools, healthcare facilities and birthing centres have safe toilets, clean running water and functional handwashing 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.
  • Aid to be directed to where it’s most needed and the mobilising of domestic revenue to make water, sanitation and hygiene a priority.
  • Attitudinal and behavioural change on water, sanitation and hygiene issues such as handwashing and open defecation

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