Use the toilet, end open defecation
“The good news now is that 90 percent of us in our community now have toilets.”
Igbo-etiti, Enugu State, 19 November 2022- Sweating profusely under a mango tree, 28-year-old ThankGod Ugwuotu has just finished a series of trainings and demonstrations in the proper use of toilets in Ama Uwani Ikolo in Igbo Etiti Local Government Area of Enugu State.
ThankGod Ugwuotu is one of the newly recruited Volunteer Hygiene Promoters (HP) by UNICEF and Enugu State Government for his community. The work is tedious, but he expressed satisfaction, for the Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programme in his community noting that, “90 percent of us in this community now have toilets and we no longer go to the bush to defecate”.
The World Toilet’s Day this is year is focused on the impact of the sanitation crisis on groundwater, looking at how inadequate sanitation systems spread human waste into rivers, lakes and soil, polluting underground water resources and creating an environment totally unfit and unhealthy for people to thrive, especially children who face the severe impact of all these environmental health hazards.
The impact of open defecation in Nigeria is huge, more than 100,000 children under 5 years of age die each year due to diarrhea; of which 90 percent is directly attributable to unsafe water and sanitation. 1 in 4 children under five years of age exhibit severe stunting, while 1 in 10 are wasted, due to frequent episodes of diarrhea and other Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) related diseases.
ThankGod and his colleagues are recruited to stem the tide of these dire statistics on children. They transverse the length and breadth of their communities delivering hygiene promotion messages.
"I am one of the volunteer hygiene promoters in my community, and I volunteered myself to help my community gain open defecation-free status due to the huge health benefits that it would bring in the long run to us, especially our children."
According to the findings from the 2021 WASH National Routine Mapping (WASHNORM) survey report, 47 million people in Nigeria practice open defecation. Accordingly, in 2018, the Nigerian President declared a state of emergency in the Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) sector, demonstrating political will at the highest level of government, and launched a national campaign tagged 'Clean Nigeria: Use the Toilet' to jump-start the country’s journey towards becoming open defecation-free (ODF) by 2025.
With all smiles of satisfaction on his face, ThankGod said, "The foul odor around our community caused by open defecation is greatly reduced, and the flies and diseases arising from OD are no longer common."
"Helping my community to declare and become certified as ODF, was a great achievement, it wasn’t an easy feat as I and other HPs worked tirelessly, educating our community."