Thursday, December 7, 2023

Ensure Adequate Hygiene, Safe Toilets By 2030, FG Tasks Stakeholders

L-R: The Minister of Water Resources and Sanitation, Prof. Joseph Utsev, the Minister of Environment, Malam Balarabe Abbas, and the Minister of State of the Ministry of Water Resources and Sanitation, Bello Goronyo during a press briefing on World Toilet Day held in Abuja.

In a collaborative effort between the Federal Ministry of Environment (FME) and the Federal Ministry of Water Resources and Sanitation (FMWR&S), stakeholders and the public have been tasked with accelerating efforts to ensure that every Nigerian has access to adequate hygiene and safe toilets by 2030.

During the press briefing for the 2023 World Toilet Day (WTD) in Abuja, titled ‘Accelerating Change,’ the Minister of the Federal Ministry of Environment, Malam Balarabe Abbas highlighted that the issues of open defecation in Nigeria are no longer acceptable. He emphasised that sanitation is a human right, and access to these services is crucial for people’s health, business, and the environment.

The theme for this year’s World Toilet Day, “Accelerating Change,” aims to inspire individuals to take personal action in improving toilets and sanitation systems. Abbas stressed that every sector and every Nigerian has a role to play in addressing the sanitation crisis.

Toilets, according to Abbas, are fundamental to public health, playing a crucial role in protecting the environment by removing human waste away from homes hygienically. However, he lamented that toilets and the supporting sanitation systems are neglected in many parts of the world, including Nigeria, with dire consequences for health, economics and the environment, especially in marginalised communities.

Abbas disclosed alarming statistics, noting that about 4.2 billion people worldwide live without safe toilets, and approximately 48 million Nigerians still practice open defecation, using the bush and water bodies for waste disposal. This practice extends to many public and private institutions that lack functional sanitary facilities.

The consequences of poor excreta and sewage disposal include a high rate of diarrhoea diseases, the second leading cause of morbidity and mortality among children under the age of five. Cholera outbreaks, according to Abbas, are also a manifestation of inadequate toilet facilities. He emphasised that these issues could be mitigated through safe excreta disposal by individuals.

The Federal Government of Nigeria, Abbas assured, remained committed to addressing sanitation challenges and ensuring proper excreta management. The FME will continue interventions to control open defecation and promote the provision of safe and adequate toilets across the country, particularly in public places.

To strengthen the capacity of environmental health officers, the Ministry has renewed a memorandum of understanding with the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), India, focusing on technology transfer, technical assistance, capacity building and research development in water, sanitation and environmental management. The CSE has conducted specialised training on affordable toilet designs and feacal sludge management for Environmental Health Officers and Sanitation Desk Officers.

Abbas urged stakeholders and commercial entities, including shopping malls, to take measures to ensure everyone has access to toilets in their domains. He solicited support from development partners, NGOs, CSOs, the organised private sector and the public for the sanitation programmes of the Federal Ministry of Environment.

In his address, the Minister of Water Resources and Sanitation, Prof. Joseph Utsev highlighted the global significance of the World Toilet Day theme, “Accelerating Change.” He pointed out the poor progress made globally towards meeting the goals of the water, sanitation and hygiene sector under the targets set by SDG6.1 and 6.2.

According to the 2023 update report of the WHO/UNICEF joint monitoring programme, an estimated 3.5 billion people worldwide lack access to safe toilets, and over 40% of wastewater is discharged into the environment without treatment. In Nigeria, over 100 million people lack access to basic sanitation, and an estimated 48 million practice open defecation.

Utsev stressed that access to adequate water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services is crucial for the socio-economic development of any nation, impacting human capital outcomes such as early childhood survival, health and educational attainment. He encouraged everyone to do more to attain the 2025 target date of ending open defecation in Nigeria.

Representing the Minister of Works, David Umahi, the director overseeing the permanent secretary of the ministry, Omotayo Olusanya emphasised the contagious impact of poor sanitation on the environment. He reiterated the importance of World Toilet Day in raising awareness and fostering collective responsibility for improved sanitation practices.

Oluchi Okorafor
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