Toilets help keep children, especially girls, in school
In Benue communities, children are helping to drive positive change by promoting toilet use among their peers.
Benue State, Nigeria, 19 November 2021 – In many communities in Benue State, Nigeria, children are helping to drive positive change by promoting toilet use among their peers.
Over a billion people defecate in the open globally, because they simply don't have a toilet available. In Nigeria, 46 million people defecate in the open – 23 per cent of the population, the highest rate in the world.
Girls like 11-year-old Mimidoo Tortiv are worried about the impacts of open defecation and are speaking up to spread the word about the importance of toilet use.
Mimidoo is not too shy to tell everyone, “using the toilet makes the environment clean.”
“The toilets in my school are so clean and well-kept that I and my friends like to use them,” said Mimidoo.
“I like to talk to my friends about the importance of using toilets because in my school, the facilities built by UNICEF provide girls with their own separate toilets and handwashing facilities and that helps give us privacy,” she said.
Mimidoo’s case is a good example of how access to toilets can help reduce suffering and shame among women and girls, who often leave school when there are no toilets available. They also resort to going to sleep last and waking up first, so that they can take advantage of the darkness, when they search for a place to openly defecate in privacy, without the risk of being seen.
In Africa, half of young girls who drop out of school do so because their school doesn’t have basic toilets. Lack of toilets puts women and girls at risk of shame and makes them a target for sexual assault.
Only 10 per cent of Nigerian schools have basic hygiene services, including toilets.
UNICEF, with support from the Nigerian Humanitarian Fund (NHF), provided three blocks of toilets in the primary school of a camp for internally displaced persons in Gbajimba, Guma LGA, to help stop the spread of disease due to open defecation.
Headteacher Adule J. Aondowase said, “I sincerely appreciate UNICEF and other partners for providing toilets in this school. What I like best about the toilets is that they are well-constructed, making it very easy for both teachers and pupils to use the facilities.”
“The toilets have greatly improved the school’s hygiene, as pupils no longer defecate in open places. We have also seen improved school attendance for girls, including when they are menstruating, a critical time for girls to have access to clean and safe toilets for their comfort.”
Mr Doutimiye Kiakubu, UNICEF Nigeria’s Enugu Field Office WASH Specialist, said, “UNICEF and partners will continue to strongly advocate for sustainable water, sanitation, and hygiene services in schools. These services help children to continue to learn, especially girls.”