About 419 million people still defecate in the open – UNICEF

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNUCEF) has said that about 419 million people still defecate in the open, while 3.5 billion residents continue to live without safe toilets globally.

According to the Fund, about 2.2 billion persons are also living without safe potable water that cause child-killer diseases, including polio, cholera and diphtheria.

UNICEF’s WASH Manager, Mamita Bora Thakkar, raised that alarm, yesterday (Friday), in Maiduguri, Borno state, to mark World Toilet Day, slated for November 19, 2023.

She disclosed that about two billion people or 25% of global population, lack basic hand-washing facilities, while in Nigeria, 48 million people defecate in the open.

“Out of 774 local councils in Nigeria, only 104 or 15 per cent have been declared Open Defecation Free (ODF),” she said.

Besides, the WASH boss, added that unsafe water, sanitation, and hygiene are responsible for the deaths of about 1,000 children under five every day.

While reviewing the state of global WASH facilities, Thakkar disclosed: “At the current rate, three billion people will still be living without safe toilets,” noting that two billion people will be without safe drinking water.

She, therefore, warned that about 1.4 billion will lack basic hygiene facilities by 2030.

“These are grim reminders that sanitation, is still an unfinished agenda,” she said, adding that every year there’s a new theme that highlights different dimensions of sanitation, each of which is important in saving people’s lives.

The WASH boss, however, noted that progress towards universal sanitation is alarmingly off track, as it was unevenly distributed between countries, and inadequate to eliminate the inequalities to ensure that the most vulnerable are reached WASH facilities.

According to her, the world has to work, five times faster to meet the sanitation target of the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) six which comprise safe toilets and water for all by 2030.

She reiterated that sanitation and drinking water are human rights, stating that access to these services is critical to people’s health and the integrity of the environment.

“Systems strengthening efforts are key to unlocking real progress,” she declared.

Thakkar noted that lack of sanitation has a profound impact on public health, productivity, environmental integrity and educational attainment for girls and women who were disproportionately affected by deplorable sanitation conditions.

Besides sanitation, she advocated that; “We need to undertake appropriate climate adaptation measure to ensure our sanitation initiatives do not impact the climate negatively.

“Safely managed sanitation protects groundwater from human waste pollution.”

She said that despite sanitation system in removing and treating human waste, noting that; “But, we are seriously off track to meet this target.

In Borno state, there was a significant progress by getting the first two Local Government Councils of Biu and Shani, as open defecation free last year.

She said the momentum be sustained, with accelerated efforts to bring more council areas under Open Defecation Free (ODF) campaign.

“Sanitation results could be achieved through high administrative and political priorities,” she said, including budgetary allocations and capacity building at every level with deadlines to meet

The sanitation measures and ODF campaigns; are to create a culture where the use of toilet becomes a social norm and everyone’s habit, particularly among children.

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