By Tobias Lengnan Dapam

Yammawar Jadawa is a community in Dambatta Local Government Area of Kano state. The community is located at the outskirt of Kano city,bordering Daura, hometown of Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari in Katsina state.

The community currently engage in open defecation, with no toilet for the inhabitants of that village; joining the 47million Nigerians who engage in open defecation.

When the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), recently took journalists there, its neighbouring community, Yammawar Kafawa, was enjoying an intervention by UNICEF, European Union (EU), The United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID) and the government, through their Sanitation, Hygiene and Water in Nigeria (SHAWN 11) project.

But the inhabitants of Yammawar Jedawa community build houses without toilets and are always vulnerable to diseases.

“We defecate in the open any time we want. It is easy to use the farm or any place to defecate. We didn’t really think it was important to build house with toilet, since we could use open space for that purpose”, Muhammed Hassan, a resident of the community said.

Asked if children in the community suffer illnesses as a result, he said Diarrhea and typhoid have become common place for their children, adding that there is no hospital nearby to provide medical care for their children.

He said many have died in the past with women being attacked and raped because they want to defecate where no one could see them. “We want help so that we can be like our neighbouring community”.

Unfortunately, it is not only that community that defecate in the open. In fact, a total of 763 local government area in Nigeria, out of 774 defecate in the open, according to UNICEF.

This means that only 11 Local Government Areas (LGA’s), out of 774 that are Open Defecation Free (ODF).

These LGA’s are; Birnin Kudu and Buji, in Jigawa state; Logo in Benue State and Obanliku, Yakurr, Boki, Yala, Bekwarra and Ikom in Cross River state.

This means that the remaining 763 LGA’s, accounting for 47 million people who engage in open defecation in the country are vulnerable to diseases and the inhabitants could be in great danger if nothing serious is done to reverse the current trend in the country.

Meanwhile, UNICEF has provided 1.7 million access to improved water facilities and 2.2 million people have access to improved toilets”.

“1,227 schools and 599 primary healthcare centers have been equipped with WASH services. 3,908 communities supported to become certified open defecation free through community approach. 2.4million have benefited from UNICEF’s hygiene promotion improved distribution of hygiene supplies.”

Despite these achievements, the lackadaisical attitude of government at all levels kept the project at a snail pace, leaving the burden of ensuring ODF Nigeria on the international organisations.

Speaking during a media workshop organized for journalists, broadcasters in Kano recently by the Child Rights Information Bureau (CRIB) of the Federal Ministry of Information & Culture in collaboration with UNICEF, the agency’s WASH Specialist, Bioye Ogunjobi, said the best way to achieve ODF was for everyone to build toilet in his/her house.

“We are calling on Nigerians to ensure that every house has a toilet. People should stop building houses without toilets, they should take it as a priority to ensure the safety of their families and the cleanliness of their environments.

“When people build toilets in their houses, there will be rapid reduction of diseases in those places and no smell in those areas. It also means that the people have improved on their dignity as human beings and will be most healthier than areas without toilets.”

Speaking on the current project of the agency in the state, Ogunjobi said, “We are working in 6 LGA’s in Kano state. We believe that the successes in those 6 LGA’s will motivate others to do more. We are encouraging the government to take the lead and ensure the safety of its people. But if nothing is done to change the current situation on ground, there will be disease outbreak in those areas and many people will die.

In his analysis of the situation in Nigeria, he said aside the 47 million people in the country who defecate in the open, 33 million more also use unimproved toilets.

Giving the breakdown according to regions, Ogunjobi said, 53.9% of the people are in the North Central, while South West has 28%.

Others are; North East 21.8%, North West 10.3%, South East 22.4% and South South 17.9%.

While querying the poor sanitation situation in the country, Ogunjobi said UNICEF is working to change a situation where 64% have access to basic drinking water services, and only 42% have access to basic sanitation.

He added that 20% have fix place for hand washing with soap and toilet, while only 6% of schools have basic gender sensitive WASH services.

He further said only 5% of the country’s health facilities have basic gender-WASH sensitive services.

“12% market and motor parks have basic WASH services. Also, 11% of people suffered diarrhea in the past six weeks, 76% are children under 5.”

Also speaking about the hazards of open defecation, a health expert, Lengnan Ambros said Nigeria needs to pass a low against open defecation.

She expressed worry that the rate of fesses in the open has a lot of effects on especially women and children.

“Some health hazards that are likely to destroy the lives of our children include; cholera, typhoid, diarrhoea, intestinal infections, malnutrition and stunted growth; because at this stage their immunity is low thereby increasing the risk of diseases.

“Women are not also left out as they are at the risk of contacting Urinary Transmitted Infections (UTI’s) because of the use of polluted open spaces. They are also vulnerable to violence, rape and sexual molestation as they look for secluded places to defecate. Also,drinking water from sources which are polluted with human waste can also cause various health complications to the woman such as; cholera and diarrhea.”

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