Eradicating Open Defecation, Urination in Lagos State

Eradicating Open Defecation, Urination in Lagos State

Wednesday, April 23, 2014 1:06 pm

People defecating in a canal in Lagos

People defecating in a canal in Lagos

Lagos, one of the largest mega cities in the world, is faced with a serious crisis of open defecation and urination. With 570 public toilets for an over 20 million population, the problem of open defecation and urination is far from being solved. But the Lagos State Government has expressed its determination to halt the trend in the Lagos metropolis.

Nigeria ranks fourth among the top 12 countries where open defecation reigns supreme. It is estimated, according to the World Health Organisation, WHO, that about 34 million Nigerians still defecate and urinate in the open. Out of the 1.1 billion people worldwide who practice open defecation, India ranks first, followed by Indonesia, with 63 million of its population practising the habit, while Ethiopia ranks third, with Nigeria following. Others are Sudan (19 million), Nepal (15 million), China (14 million), Niger (12 million), Burkina Faso (9.7 million), Mozambique (9.5 million) and Cambodia (8.6 million).

Over $2 billion is needed to construct 20 million toilets to stop open defecation in 18 countries in the world as each person without access to toilet spends 2.5 days in a year finding a private location to defecate. This results in losses totaling almost $500 million in access time annually due to open defecation for the18 countries, the WHO report said.

Not surprisingly, the poorest are more likely to practise open defecation than the wealthiest. Impacts of open defecation include: epidemic outbreaks, losses in trade and tourism revenue, impact of unsafe excreta disposal on water resources and long term effects of poor sanitation on early childhood development

A Lagosian urinating in the open

A Lagosian urinating in the open

This informed the one day Advocacy and Stakeholders meeting on Open Urination and Defecation in Lagos State: Public Toilets in Focus. The meeting was held on 11 April, at the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, LCCI, Ikeja, Lagos. At the event were government officials, large number of people in the informal sector, among others.

According to the Lagos State Commissioner for the Environment, Tunji Bello, it is incumbent upon the government to discourage these unwholesome acts and enlist the support of well-meaning Lagosians to actualise its vision of transforming Lagos into a cleaner and healthier tourist haven. He said recent statistics by the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, reported that out of the 2.5 billion who live without adequate sanitation around the world, 33 million Nigerians have no access to decent toilets and that as a result of this inadequacy, citizens of Africa’s most populous nation answer the call of nature in the open.

“Lagos State with the population of over 20 million people contends with the challenges of inadequacy of water and sanitation, due to neglect of several years and exodus of people from other parts of the country, who take advantage of good governance and abundant economic opportunities in the state. The cost of open defecation and urination is too much to be ignored. Not only do they pollute underground waters, they contaminate agricultural produce, aid the spread of diseases such as diarrhoea, malabsorption of nutrients in the gut, ascaris, tapeworm, intestinal parasites, hookworm, hepatitis, among others. The health implications are indeed grave and monumental…”

The commissioner said that over 570 public toilets currently exist in the state, which is grossly inadequate. He added that one of the reasons the meeting was convened was to dialogue on how best these facilities could be increased and well utilised.

Noting that it was apparent that government alone cannot do it, he called on individuals, groups, corporate organisations to collaborate with the state government as well as engage in private investment to complement this effort.

“Whilst the public sector invests in sanitation and regulates against pollution, the private sector are advised to invest massively so as to provide more of these facilities to the people of the state. I also wish to request for the support and collaboration of all and sundry, particularly our market men and women and others in the informal sector to key into the aspiration of our government for zero tolerance on open defecation and urination as well as other environmental abuses,” he said.

Mrs. Abimbola Fashola, wife of the Governor of Lagos State, said public defecation and urination affect the populace negatively. “Besides looking unhealthy and smelling foul, both actions are harmful to the health of residents as they are easy ways to diseases such as typhoid and cholera to spread. We need sensitization and advocacy to fight this cause of death in our society,” she stated.

Dr. Olubunmi Enigbokan, Director, Environmental Health, Lagos State Ministry of Health, in his paper, Health Implications and Foster Preventive Measures to Build the Resilience of the Citizens against Open Defecation and Urination, said Lagos is faced with critical challenge of open defecation, which not only pollutes ground water but also contaminates agricultural products and helps the spread of diseases such as diarrhoea, cholera, typhoid, poliomyelitis, bilharzias, among others. Noting that provision of facilities such as toilets and refuse bins alone was not sufficient to improve communities’ health, he said that the use of water closet toilet was found to be high and more acceptable in urban cities compared with other areas which were mainly rural, which he said, was primarily due to availability of water in the urban areas.

According to Enigbokan, as at 2011, the total number of approved markets in Lagos State was estimated at 214 with a total of 72,470 shops comprising of lock-up, open and kee-klamp shops, saying that markets with special peculiarities such Alaba Rago, Mile 12, Abattoir market, Oke-odo, Boundary, among others deserved special attention with a view to controlling the users from open defecation and urination

He suggested the adoption of Community-Led Total Sanitation, CLTS, an innovative methodology for mobilising communities to completely eliminate open defecation. He explained that under CLTS, communities were facilitated to conduct their own appraisal and analysis of open defecation and take their own action to become open defecation-free.

CLTS focuses on behavioural change needed to ensure real and sustainable improvements. It is a strategy to realizing Millennium Development Goal, MDG 7, which is to ensure environmental sustainability.

He said that preventive measures to be adopted to end open defecation and urination included awareness campaign on safe sanitation, enlightenment and sensitisation, behavioural change communication, CLTS, legislation and enforcement.

Speaking on Eradicating Open Defecation and Open Urination Activities in Lagos: Public Toilet in Focus, Engr. Adesoji Adeyemi lamented the current sanitation situation in Lagos, which he said could be described as abysmal as common sanitation solutions include open defecation, plastic-bag defecation, various types of latrine, pour-flush toilets discharging to open drains, and pour-flush toilets discharging to septic tanks.

“Lagos has no sewerage system apart from a few private systems. The ones constructed for a few government housing estates like Iponri, Festac are in total disrepair. The very poor sanitation situation is compounded by the frequent and severe flooding affecting many areas. To address the situation, especially in public places, the Ministry of the Environment along with the Ministry of Women Affairs as well as some LGAs constructed a number of public toilets across Lagos. A few private organisations have also constructed a few toilets in public places such as motor parks, markets and so on.

“At least, 413 toilets were constructed privately while only 165 were constructed by government. From the above data we have only one public toilet for a population of 37,859, showing the need for a lot of more public toilets in the state. A lot of the public toilets have been badly constructed with poor materials, faucets and water closets. Some of the toilets do not have adequate water supply, which is essential to keeping it clean. This is a major problem as the cost of keeping the toilet facilities in good condition must be factored into its maintenance. There is inadequate monitoring and payment of penalties and fines for open defecation. The location of the toilets is sometimes in areas not easily accessible,” he explained.

On steps to improve the management and use of public toilets, Adeyemi called for improvement of construction standards, water supply, improved toilet management, regulation and penalties, accessibility, improved monitoring, and ensuring that all petrol stations in the state have working toilets and imposition of sanctions on those that did not meet standard criteria. He added that there should be better coordination between the Ministries of the Environment and Women and Affairs and Poverty Alleviation and the private secto, and a proper framework developed.

According to him, there should be formation of Lagos State Task Group on Sanitation, encouragement of the motor parks, markets and other areas where the toilets were located to develop ownership of the facilities through Toilet Keeper Associations; as well as extend monitoring to all petrol stations in the state.

Join The Conversation

What do you think?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.