Worried by Nigeria’s unenviable record as the country with the highest rate of open defecation after India, a Non Governmental Organization, U-Save Foundation, has taken up the task to reverse the trend.
U-Save Foundation is a subsidiary of the Rochas Foundation, which is committed to providing access to safe drinking water, proper sanitation facilities and provision of sustainable solutions to water problems in Nigeria through free consultations, direct project, awareness campaigns, advocacy, capacity building and research.
It is estimated that 50 million Nigerians (or 10 million households) defecate in the open, with about 25 per cent, or more than 47 million Nigerians, lack access to toilet facilities.
In line with the Foundation’s objectives, it built and renovated 40 toilets at the College of Education Minna, Niger State.
The Country Director U-Save Foundation, Mrs Uju Anwukah, disclosed that the.multi-million naira project was undertaken by the Foundation to achieve Goal 6 of the Sustainable Development Goals and meeting Nigeria’s target of ending open defecation by 2025.
She said the foundation is working to bridge the gap of health-related challenges by the provision of access to clean drinking water, promoting hygiene in Nigeria and providing WASH facilities.
Anwukah stated that the provision of WASH facilities in schools is very important especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent cholera epidemic where cases are rising daily.
The Country Director enjoined the students of the College to maintain of the renovated and constructed toilets, urging them to sensitize their communities against open defecation.
She stated that the Foundation plans to renovate and construct more toilets in schools in the Southeast and Southwest before the end of the year.
According to her, “as a result of our understanding of the effects of Open Defecation practices on the health of a population and the economy of the country, we decided to play an impactful role in moving the nation closer to her goal of ending Open Defecation by 2025.
“The Foundation come into the College of Education Minna and after a pre-intervention survey, realized the need to provide an improved form of sanitation facilities in the school.
“In curbing the sanitation problems faced by the school, U-Save Foundation,.renovated 34 toilets, from an unimproved to an improved form of sanitation facility,. constructed six new sanitation facilities to increase the number of sanitation facilities in the school, installed surface pumping machines to increase the pressure of water flowing into the sanitation facilities.
“Installed a reservoir tank, organized a WASH seminar, tagged “Achieving the 2025 Target on Open Defecation”, to ensure College of Education Minna is part of the change the Nation seeks”.
Commending the Foundation for the initiative, the the Niger State governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello, lamented that no Local Government Area in the state is open defecation free.
He said the State government has developed a Sanitation Safety Plan, to address the menace.
Bello represented by the Permanent Secretary of the state Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Lucky Barau, noted that the state government is not pleased with the status of open defecation in the state and is doing its best to reverse the trend.
He said, “the state has developed sanitation safety plan to address open defecation; we are working directly with the WHO to bring up strategies on how to overcome open defecation and we are also working with USAID and UNICEF on the EWASH programme to try to rid the state of open defecation.
“We are hoping that soon, open defecation would be a thing of the past in the state. We hope that by this time next year, we will be singing a different song in the aspect of open defecation.
“For now, there is no single Local Government Area of the state that is open defecation free. It is not a good record but we are working with all relevant associations to reverse the trend. We applaud the U-Save Foundation for its initiative in renovating 34 toilets and WASH facilities and constructing six toilets for use of the NCE and undergraduate students.
“This initiative is commendable because it is the first time such an intervention is coming to the college in the area of ensuring that the students have access to modern WASH facilities and it is in line with the cardinal objective of ending open defecation.
“U-Save is setting a pace for others to follow in an attempt to rid Niger State and Nigeria of the dangers of open defecation. This is the 21st Century and no sensible society should still indulge in open defecation, knowing the risk associated with it”.