A modern latrine in one of the households in Walama ward.
By Dauda Iliya
The practice of open defecation in Nigeria has continued to pose severe health risks and hindered the country’s progress towards achieving essential sanitation goals.
Nigeria has been top 5 open defecator in the world for the past 15 years with 48 million people still practice open defecation.
In 2018, the immediate past President Muhammadu Buhari declared state of Emergency on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene WASH and a year later, Clean Nigeria campaign was launched with the target of ending open defecation by 2025.
So far, only 102 out of the 774 local government areas have been declared Open Defecation Free.
This has raised concerns that the country may not achieve the target in the next two years owing to inadequate toilet and water facilities.
In Borno state, only two out of the 27 local government areas have achieved ODF status.
The local government areas are Biu and Shani which are located in the southern part of the state.
Radio Nigeria Correspondent Dauda Iliya who was among team of journalists who visited two communities in Biu and Shani to assess sanitation and hygiene services in the areas.
Dozens of rural communities in the two local governments have discontinued the deep-seated socio-cultural practice of defecating in the open due to aggressive campaigns by state and local government officials, international partners and traditional rulers.
Figures from United Nations Children Fund UNICEF shows that only 14 percent of schools, 12 percent of healthcare facilities and 0.4 percent of public places in Borno state have access to basic water, sanitation and hygiene services.
The interesting story about Madiya, a rural community in the outskirt of Biu town is that every household has at least one toilet facility, thereby making the residents completely abandoned the practice of open defecation.
It was the same situation in Walama, one of the eleven wards in Shani local government.
These unprecedented efforts have earned the two local government areas status of Open defecation free out the twenty seven local government areas in the state.
Despite the rural nature of the communities and low level status of the inhabitants they formed WASH committees where they personally contributed to sustain the effort.
Chairman WASHCOM Federation Shani local government Bukar Shettima and Secretary Madiya Community Garba Julde confirmed that the community led total sanitation approach has played a significant role in achieving the target.
“Open Defecation is strange in our communities, before we embrace the practice, we usually record high cases of diarrhea and vomiting but now our children are healthier and attend school regularly ” Shettima and Julde confirmed.
Also a community volunteer in Walama Maryam Malum said they also embark on regular visitation to households and public places to ensure that the area is safe and clean.
“We sensitize particularly the women folk on importance of hygiene, ensure toilets are cleaned regularly and also educate them to wash their hands and of their children with soap or ash after using the toilets and am happy to tell you that they have all embraced the practice ” Maryam added.
Another critical stakeholders are Traditional rulers who played vital role in combatting misinformation and raising awareness regarding the risk associated with open defecation.
Emir of Biu, Alhaji Mustapha Umar Mustapha II expressed commitment to ensure that the remaining three local government areas under his domain, that is Kwaya Kusar, Hawul and Bayo are certified open defecation free.
“We promised to give the needed support to ensure that the remaining three local governments have achieved the status of ODF, I will personally visit the areas during the campaign and fully mobilize people to accept the good practice”
In an engagement with community members in Biu and Shani, acting General Manager Borno state Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency RUWASSA Alhaji Babagana Sa’ad, expressed commitment of the state government to strengthen enabling environment to effectively achieve full access to improved WASH services.
UNICEF Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Specialist, Mr. Lonis Salihu said the organisation with the support of the state government and Government of the Netherlands have constructed and rehabilitated about 350 solar powered boreholes, provided thirteen thousand emergency latrines and reached over one million people with sanitation services from 2015 to date.
The stakeholders have agreed that the collaborative effort has gained significant momentum, however there was the need to invest in WASH infrastructure, sustain the ongoing awareness campaign to ensure sustainability of programme.