In this report, CHIKA OKEKE writes on the need for sustained environmental sanitation to avert outbreak of cholera and other communicable diseases.
The upsurge in communicable and water borne diseases have weakened the already increasing population in Nigeria especially in rural areas due to poor environmental sanitation.
This is why the country is struggling to contend with the outbreak of cholera that ravaged 18 states of Adamawa, Anambra, Bauchi, Borno, Ebonyi, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Nasarawa, Niger, Plateau, Yobe, Sokoto and Zamfara likewise the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Cholera is an acute diarrhoeal infection caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium vibrio cholera.
A situation report by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) revealed that about 517 died from cholera outbreak while 27, 927 cases were recorded between January and September 2018.
Added to this a report from the United Nations Environment Programme(UNEP) that the high rate of urbanisation hampered the development and improvement in basic urban service delivery.
This however led to inadequate access to safe drinking water and sanitation as well as the pollution of natural waterways.
In Africa inclusive of Nigeria, the urban population without sanitation services doubled from 88 million in 1990 to 175 million in 2008 even as the number of people without access to fresh water increased from 29 million in 1990 to 57 million in 2008.
Findings by Leadership indicated that the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), an arm of the UN had in 2017 ranked Nigeria among the top 5 countries globally having large numbers of people without access to safe water, improved sanitation and practicing open defecation.
Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari had earlier declared a state of emergency on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in the country due to the outbreak of communicable diseases.
Given the challenges, the federal government launched sanitation campaign in communities as well as ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) in commemoration of 2018 World Toilet Day (WTD) with the theme: ‘When Nature Calls’.
The WTD which holds globally on 18th November was targeted at raising awareness on the need to tackle global sanitation crisis, ending open defecation and promoting access to toilets for all.
However, the campaign team visited Dei-dei, a community in Bwari area council to enlighten residents on dangers of open defecation and unhygienic environment.
About 15 people were confirmed dead from cholera outbreak in Sauka, Kubwa, Mpape and Bwari, in Bwari area council last two months.
The environment was dirty especially the compound where about three persons died from cholera outbreak.
The minister of environment, Mallam Ibrahim Jibril, hinted that the essence of the campaign was to create awareness on the need for individuals to build toilets in their homes and public place since excreta have effect on the environment and humans generally.
The assistant chief, environmental health officers in the ministry, Mr Gbetsere Aghogho who spoke on behalf of the minister was irked with the poor handling of excreta through open defecation, a situation that contributed to food, water and airborne diseases.
He noted that due to the importance of sanitation that President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent declaration of state of emergency on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sectors across the country.
The minister pointed out that with good toilet facilities, sicknesses like malaria and cholera would be non-existent in communities, just as he lauded Dei-dei residents for the turnout of the exercise.
He sought the cooperation and support of community leaders towards achieving cleaner and greener environment.
Lending his voice, the registrar/CEO of EHORECON, Dr Dominic Abonyi, emphasised that the council was concerned with people’s health in the area of environmental sanitation, adding that the essence of the campaign was to sensitise the residents to stop open defecation.
Nathaniel Omonayajo, who spoke on behalf of the CEO enjoined mothers to ensure that their children and husband’s used toilet facilities.
According to him, “If there are heaps of feaces everywhere, flies will perch on the excreta and transfer it to the food we eat thereby causing cholera and other diseases.”
Also, the president, Environmental Health Officers Association of Nigeria, (EHOAN), FCT chapter, Mr Damian Mgbaramuko pleaded with federal government to employ environmental health officers in order to sustain sanitary inspection of premises.
The district head of Dei- dei, Alhaji Haruna Saidu Sani, appealed to federal government and Bwari area council to construct public toilets in commercial and strategic places within the community.
While calling on Bwari area council to build drainages and dump site, he stated that the community lacks portable drinking water and electricity.
He promised to arrest residents that would engage in open defecation if government would construct public toilets.
Contributing, the head of department, environment, Bwari area council, Mr Timothy Nwanna, promised that he would intimate the area council chairman, Mr Musa Dikko on the requests made by the community.
He maintained that individuals should acquire waste bins and build toilets in their homes for personal use, adding that public toilets are built in places like motor park and markets.
Nwanna informed the residents that the council would be inspecting their houses from time to time, even as he sought the cooperation of the locals in carrying out the exercise.
The inspection team visited the Head of Service (HoS) to inspect their toilets and kitchen. Despite the use of disinfectant, there was stench oozing from the toilet.
Abonyi observed that there were rats within the complex adding that the toilets were not out of expectation.
He pleaded with the media to join in sensitising the public on good hygiene, saying that the ministry of water resources was making efforts to ensure that Nigerians had access to good water.
While calling on all relevant agencies to join forces with the Council in sanitising Nigeria, he said the implication of not washing hands after using the convenience would amount to poisoning the water and hands.
At the force headquarters medical centre, it was observed that out of the three toilets, two were functional.
There was no liquid soap dispenser or hand dryer even as the toilets were stained.
The force medical officer, AIG Kaumi Ahmadu, commended EHORECON for the visit, stating that the force would collaborate with the ministry of health to commemorate special days like the WTD.
He emphasised that the force embraced the culture of sanitation, adding that they sensitise officers of police force on the need to be neat and sanitation compliant, which he said extended to their patrol vehicles.
Ahmadu was optimistic that the visit would strengthen and remind the force that they are partners whose ultimate interest was to ensure that the entire dwelling were habitable.
He challenged EHORECON to visit the barracks and check their convenices saying that they would be marvelled with the level of cleanliness in the barracks.
Abonyi confirmed that EHORECON has the political backing to inspect toilets at federal government establishment.
He asserted that public health law empowered environmental officers to enforce sanitation, noting that sanitary inspectors were effective because they worked with security agencies and courts.
Abonyi desired that the force medical health service should have a preventive arm.
Addressing newsmen on WTD celebration, the minister of state environment, Mallam Usman Jibril recalled that the just concluded 12th National Council on Environment (NCE) recently held in Akure, Ondo state directed the ministry to develop a national policy for the declaration of national emergency on open defecation.
He however challenged stakeholders on environment at the national, state and local government levels to take practical steps and actions to ensure that Nigerians have access to eco-friendly sanitary facilities.
The minister frowned at the absence of sanitary facilities in government and private institutions, adding that they were either misused or malfunctioned where available.
He pointed out that 4.5 billion worldwide live without safe toilet, while 892 million people still practice open defecation by using the bush as well as water bodies as their regular means for disposing excreta.
In view of the shortfall, he disclosed that federal government is committed to addressing the sanitation challenges including ending open defecation in the country and ensuring proper management of excreta.
This he said, is reflected by President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent declaration of state of emergency on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in the country stressing that the ministry in collaboration with stakeholders was reviewing the national environmental sanitation policy guidelines on safe excreta and sewage disposal.
The minister hinted that the community- based waste management programme likewise the clean and green programme of the ministry was aimed at promoting the provision of safe and adequate toilets across the states particularly in public places.