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Tackling under 5 mortality through Open Defecation Free Practice

Many Nigerian children, especially under five years, continue to be the worst hit by the practice of Open Defecation (OD) that is prevalent in many…

Many Nigerian children, especially under five years, continue to be the worst hit by the practice of Open Defecation (OD) that is prevalent in many communities in the country.

Nigeria has been rated the first country in Africa in the practice of OD and second globally following closely behind India, a survey conducted by Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH NORM) revealed.

It said “47 million Nigerians representing 24.4 percent of the population still practice OD while 32 million people in the country still make use of unimproved latrine.”

Open defecation is the human practice of defecating outside rather than into a toilet. People may choose fields, bushes, forests, ditches, streets, canals or other open spaces for defecation. They do so because either they do not have a toilet readily accessible or due to traditional cultural practices.

The United Nations Children  Fund (UNICEF) factsheet revealed that, more than a billion people do not have access to safe water and well over 2 billion live without adequate sanitation globally. At any given time, more than half of the developing world’s population is suffering from one or more of the main diseases associated with unsafe water and poor sanitation.

For children, the chances of survival dwindle in the absence of these essentials – 6,000 children die of water-related diseases every day. Young children are the first to get sick and die from waterborne and sanitation-related illnesses—including diarrhoeal diseases and malaria.

A document produced by the Ministry of Water Resources with support from UNICEF stated that OD has impact on children’s development which also affects their health seriously.

The document revealed that, 1 in 4 children under five years of age exhibit severe stunting, while 1 in 10 are wasted, due to frequent episodes of diarrhoea and other Water Sanitation and Hygiene  related illnesses.

Listed among the negative effects of OD on children are, low productivity that is, frequent episodes of WASH-related diseases cause absence from school or work, as affected people take time off to heal, and some take care of a sick relative.

According to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH NORM) survey, only 64% of Nigerians have access to safe drinking water, while only 42% have access to basic sanitation services.

The survey also revealed that only 20% of Nigerians have a fixed place for hand washing with soap and only 12% of markets and motor parks have basic sanitation services.

Different experts in the area of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), health and media in their presentation at the European Union media dialogue workshop organised by UNICEF in conjunction with the Child Right Bureau (CRIB) of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture with the theme, ‘Clean Nigeria: Use Toilet’ in Ibadan, Oyo State stated that with Nigeria achieving her Open Defecation Free status (ODF), childhood death associated to sanitation related diseases would be a thing of the past.

He said 102,000 children die in Nigeria annually from diseases caused by OD as Nigeria ranked first in Africa and second globally, closely behind India, adding that the use of unimproved latrine is as bad as OD and that 32 million Nigerians are still in this practice.

Mr Ogunjobi also said diseases like pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria, combined with underlying malnutrition, are responsible for most deaths of infants and children.


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