Yesterday was World Toilet Day, a day set aside by the World Toilet Organizationto raise global awareness of the struggle 2.6 billion face everyday without access to proper, clean sanitation. The day also brings to the forefront the health, emotional and psychological consequences the poor endure as a result of inadequate sanitation.
While Nigeria joined the rest of the world to mark the day, it has emerged that an estimated 34 million Nigerians practice open defecation and this is according to a joint UNICEF and World Health Organisation 2012 report.
The report puts Nigeria among the top five countries in the world with largest number of people defecating in the open.
A statement by UNICEF to mark the day in the country seeks an end to open defecation, adding that lack of toilet remains one of the leading causes of illness and death among children.
According to UNICEF statistics, in Nigeria it is estimated that diarrhoea kills about 194,000 children under five years annually, while respiratory infections kill another 240,000.
These are largely preventable with improvements in water, sanitation and hygiene.
UNICEF Country Representative in Nigeria, Ibrahima Fall noted that trends in the past five years allow for cautious optimism that significant progress will be made in decreasing the number of people who practice open defecation globally.
Fall disclosed that globally, UNICEF is supporting 50 countries, including Nigeria, to implement Community Approaches to Total Sanitation, CATS, such as Community Led Total Sanitation, CLTS, aimed at empowering communities to identify their sanitation challenges and take necessary actions to end open defecation.
He explained that CLTS aims to make all communities free of open defecation by focusing on social and behavioural change and the use of affordable, appropriate technologies.