At least 124,000 children under the age of five die annually in Nigeria due to diarrhoea and other toilet infection associated diseases.
Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajiya Sadiya Farouk, made the remarks during a visit to Bakassi Internally Displaced Persons’ camp in Cross River State.
The minister, who was represented by the Director of Social Development in the ministry, Mr. Taiwo Bashorun, spoke shortly after distributing toiletries and disinfectant worth millions of naira to the internally displaced persons, and called for good toilet and environmental hygiene if the IDPs wanted to have a healthy living.
During the visit, which was for sensitisation/awareness campaign on Clean Nigeria-Use the Toilet organised for IDPs in Bakassi Camp, the minister charged them to shun open defecation so that they would not invite diseases associated with open defecation to the camp.
According to the minister, the economic impact of unsafe water, poor sanitation and hygiene depletes the Nigerian economy by almost the equivalent of 1.3 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product.
Farouk also stated that an estimated “47 million people in Nigeria still indulge in open defecation,” adding that Nigeria tops the league of countries where open defecation was prevalent.
She said available World Health Organisation records have it that “One in every four Nigerians defecate openly, creating a medium for potential transmission of the wild polio virus, cholera and hepatitis among other infectious diseases because they have no access to adequate toilet facilities.”
The minister further said additional data presented by UNICEF shows that an estimated 120 million in the country lacked access to improved sanitation facilities, or facilities that hygienically separate human waste from human contact.
The Supervisor for Environment, Mrs. Nkoyo Effiong, who spoke earlier on effective hygiene, advised the IDPs not to discard baby pampers in open places but instead drop the pampers into toilets to prevent passers-by from getting in contact with already used pampers which constitute an eyesore and capable of transmitting diseases.
The Chairman of Bakassi LGA, Iyadim Iyadim, thanked the minister for taking the campaign against open defecation to his domain and promised to do everything to end the practice.