A cleaner state starts with the use of toilets, Cross River State insists

Government and communities commit to improved use of toilets for a cleaner and disease-free state

Ijeoma Onuoha-Ogwe, Communication Officer, UNICEF Nigeria
A man speaking to a crowd
20 April 2021

In Nigeria’s effort to eliminate open defecation by 2025, Cross River State stands out as having the first open defecation free local government area (LGA) in the country. However, with more than a half million of the state’s population still defecating in the open, there is still plenty of work to do.

With the launch of the Clean Cross River State: Use the Toilet campaign, the state is aligning with national efforts to achieve the ambitious goal of eliminating open defecation.

“Today marks the beginning of a renewed drive to re-position Cross River State as the number one state in WASH activities in Nigeria,” said Professor Ivara Esu, Deputy Governor of Cross River.

“This campaign advocates the provision of WASH services and facilities in schools, healthcare facilities and in public institutions, taking into special consideration marginalized and disadvantaged groups,” he added.

Ending open defecation – a practice that sees people urinating or defecating by the side of a road or behind a bush - is an essential step in protecting the lives of millions of the poorest and most vulnerable children in Nigeria and allowing them to live with dignity.

It is also a key element of the Nigerian Government’s commitment to ensure a clean and safe country where children have access to basic facilities such as toilets, which can help end sanitation-related diseases that are one of the leading causes of preventable death for children under five years old.

A toilet
Newly constructed 12 compartment toilet system in Hausa community of Urban Calabar
A toilet
Newly constructed 12 compartment toilet system in Hausa community of Urban Calabar

Since Cross River’s Obanliku LGA became the first to be certified open defecation-free in Nigeria, six other LGAs in Cross River have followed suit, contributing to Nigeria’s total number of 57 LGAs with open defecation-free status.

Through strong commitment from UNICEF, the Nigerian Government, community WASH committees, and NGOs such as United Purpose, progress has been made toward the state becoming completely open defecation-free by 2025. However, it is clear there is much work still to do.

“In Cross River today, more than half a million people are still defecating in the open, while only 31 per cent of schools have basic sanitation facilities,” said Mamita Bora Thakkar, UNICEF Nigeria’s WASH Manager.

A toilet block
Improved toilet systems with help of partners in rural communities of Obalinku LGA Cross river state.

“Through the efforts of the government, UNICEF, European Union Water Supply and Sanitation Sector Reform Programme, United Purpose and community-led institutions, eight LGAs are already open defecation-free, which is remarkable,” she added. “But it is also a reminder to speed up action to implement policies and make use of the enabling environment in the state to end open defecation, thus reducing the burden of disease.”

To establish the Clean Nigeria: Use the Toilet Campaign, the government created executive order No. 009 in 2009. The order aimed to create strong awareness for improved hygiene practices among people to meet the overall sanitation goal of ending open defecation in Nigeria. 

“This government recognizes the need for clean water and good handwashing practices in schools and health institutions, so that children and especially girls do not drop out of school due to waterborne diseases and ailments,” said Prof. Esu, reaffirming Cross River State’s high-level commitment to the ODF awareness campaign. He urged the private sector to take part through business investments and corporate social responsibility initiatives.

“Our government is thankful to UNICEF for having come forward to support this programme. We deeply value our partnership with UNICEF and look forward to receiving continued technical and financial support from them to help translate our vision of making Cross River State an open defecation free state into a reality,” he said.