One of the major characteristics of any great nation is a healthy and hygienic environment which presupposes a healthy workforce capable of driving the policies and programs of the government.
Good health is basically achieved through good hygiene practices, access to portable water and sanitation services which are by right expected to be provided by the federal government, state and local governments. All these help in preventing as well as eliminating the spread of diseases such as Typhoid, Cholera and Polio.
In organized society, pipe born water, public toilet facilities and other sanitation equipment are provided at strategic places to serve as conveniences for the populace. This is also to say that each house hold or community must have these facilities as an integral part of living.
Unfortunately this is not the case in many third world nations. For example in Nigeria only about 20% of households in urban centers can boost of water, sanitation and hygiene. The reason for this development cannot be dissociated from the inability of successive governments from the states and local authorities to pay adequate attention to policies and programs aimed at improving access to qualitative water, sanitation and hygiene services.
At the inception of the present administration priority was placed on people oriented programs, as such, the ministry of water resources was one of the key sectors that adequate attention was given. Water projects and empowerment scheme that before now had made a lot of impact on the life of Nigerians especially in the Agriculture and Industrial sectors were targeted to engender food security for the Nation.
The ministry of water resources initiated a water resources road map and proposed a bill currently before the National Assembly which is aimed at ensuring a more purposeful water sanitation and hygiene center for the country.
In 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari declared a state of emergency on water, sanitation and hygiene sector with emphasis on the need to end open defecation in Nigeria by the year 2025.
The menace of open defecation has accounted for deaths resulting from the diseases that are carried by the victims. This has largely affected the populace directly or indirectly even as Nigeria raze second after India in countries with highest cases of open defecation.
Just last year, the vice president Professor Yemi Osinbajo officially launched the clean Nigeria, Use a Toilet campaign following the perceived possibility that Nigeria may top the list of countries with cases of open defecation when India officially exits the list.
A recent global survey identified Nigeria as the second worst countries with open defecation prevalence.
In the Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH NORM) survey conducted by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Nigeria ranked second after India among countries with the highest open defecation menace.
There are five other African countries among the worst 10 where open defecation is prevalent apart from Nigeria. These African countries include: Ethiopia (3rd), Niger (7th), Sudan (8th), Chad (9th) and Mozambique (10th).
Indonesia (4th), Pakistan (5th), and China (6th) make the list of the remaining countries in the top 10.
Sad enough, India has already exited the list. Going by this development, Nigeria therefore makes the top on the list. The onus is on the private sector, states and local governments to swing into action by providing the basic sanitation needs by citizens to discourage the practices of open defecation.
These can be achieved through engaging the media through sensitization programs, jingles and adverts that highlights the dangers associated with such practices.
Hand washing especially after visiting the toilet before eating can help a great deal in promoting healthy living of Nigerians.
The attainment of open defecation free status so far by only 20 out of 774 local governments is like a drop of water in an ocean. To this end all hands must be on deck to achieve the visions of an open defecation free Nation by the year 2025.
God help Nigeria.