Why Toilet Matters By Zainab Naseer Ahmad
Yesterday was another Wednesday and its one of the days for our weekly radio program with the title Hasken Matasa “Light of the youth” which is a program by Youth Society for the Prevention of Inectious Disease and Social Vices (YOSPIS)
In partnership with Community Health and Research Initiative (CHR) with support from Aminu Magashi Garba foundation which is basically the first project I started working on from the time I emerged as the excutive director of YOSPIS and yesterday’s topic is on Toilet/ lack of public convenences in our communities, as I was listening to the guests at the studio, my mind recalled me back to a movie I watched in 2017 by Akshay Kumar title Toilet Ek Prem Katha and when I saw the name of the movie for the first time I wondered why Akshay decided to film on something like a toilet, was like these people are running out of ideas on film production, it was later when I watched it that I realized how importance it is and how they raised a great idea on campaign awareness idea to end open defecation in India, I was really impressed with the story but it still doesn’t ring in my head that we have such type of problem in our society which needed solutions.
Toilet is an important part of our lives as one of our yesterday’s guest said who is also they Director of Planning and Monitoring in Kano State ministry of environment Dr Garba Saleh said, “it is called convenience or rest room because it is not just a place to release feaces rather to have some convenient moment for yourself to relax and do your privacy tasks” it is quite unfortunate how our society ignore it importance. Hence the reason for the rising problem of open defecation. If people become pressed, they have no choice than to use anywhere to relieved what they hold in their bodies.
Open defecation is when people defecate in the open, for example on the roadside, field, river, gutter, forest, lakes, rivers etc due to lack of available and convenient toilets or poor toilets. It is a serious problem because it is an affront to dignity, health and wellbeing of the members of the society, especially for women and girls, for example hundreds of women and girls lack privacy of use of toilet to change their sanitary pads when they are menstruating, open defecation also risk exposing them to increased sexual exploitation and personal safety and it is a risk to public health.
Open defecation has now become common or rather a culture because we don’t respect toilets in our societies. According to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), one gram of faeces can contain 10 million viruses, one million bacteria and one thousand parasite cysts. Poor sanitation and hygiene practices (for example, not handwashing with soap after defecation and before eating) contribute to over 800,000 deaths from diarrhoea annually, according to the World Health Organization (WHO): that’s more people than who die from malaria. A survey by the Water Sanitation and Hygiene conducted by the United Nations Children’s Fund noted that only 11 of the 774 local government areas in Nigeria were free from the practice. In 2019, Nigeria was ranked the first country with the highest number of open defecation taking over India. It is estimated that 50 million Nigerians (or 10 million households) defecate in the open and the country loses about 1.3 per cent (N455bn) of Gross Domestic Product annually due to poor sanitation. Additionally, more than 100, 000 children under the age of five die each year because of water and sanitation-related diseases.
The problem of open defecation is linked to inadequate public toilets, poor sewage systems and also lack of laws to check the growing trend. In some offices and schools, there are no toilet facilities making people resort to defecating in open places. Nigerians lack access to toilet facilities and the majority are in rural areas where access to toilets facilities is scarce.
One of our guest in the program also added that in his town anytime he is coming to the city, “Many times passengers have to stop to defecate or urinate”. There are no toilet facilities on the road during trips and with the bushes along the road, they provide an opportunity for any passenger to quickly excrete faeces and the journey continues. If the situation of inadequate toilet facilities continues, open defecation in lagoon, bushes, roadside, forest etc cannot stop.
Open defecation has been practiced for centuries, it is an ingrained cultural norm in some societies. Stopping it requires a sustained shift in the behaviour of whole communities so that a new norm, toilet use by all, is created and accepted and properly maintained. Ending open defecation requires an ongoing investment in the construction, maintenance and use of latrines, and other basic services by govermment, philanthropist and all stakeholders involved.
A lack of at least basic sanitation and hygiene services, including a lack of informed choice about menstrual health and hygiene, is a violation of the human rights to water and sanitation, as well as the rights to health, work, adequate standard of living, non-discrimination, human dignity, protection, information, and participation.
Zainab Nasir Ahmad