According to United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), 50 million Nigerians still practice Open Defecation and Urination. Unfortunately, even with our reputation as the giant of Africa, Nigeria ranks in the top 3 in Open Defecation in the world. What most people don’t know is that just one gram of human faeces contains more than 10 million viruses, 1 million bacteria, 1,000 parasite cysts and 100 parasite eggs which can be harmful to the health and the environment.
It’s funny and quite shocking to know that “OPEN DEFECATION AND URINATION” is still a common practice among us. Open defecation and urination means defecating and urinating in the open, exposed or not in a designated toilet. It’s our duty to preserve the environment by keeping it tidy for our generations to come, not turning it into a “DUNGHILL”.
A newly launched report on the ‘2016 State of the World Toilet’ by WaterAid Nigeria revealed that 130 million (71%) Nigerians lack access to safe, private toilets. 58 million (32%) people out of the number living in urban cities lack access to improved sanitation facilities and 13.5million (7%) urban dwellers defecate in the open.
This act has a lot of negative effects on our health, environment, social well-being and economy even more than we realize. Below are some of the effects;
- Ill Health
Sometimes you wonder why you just wake up one morning and develop headaches, fatigue, nausea, stomach aches etc. These are sometimes symptoms of diseases like Malaria, Dysentery, Cholera, Diarrhea, Polio, and Typhoid that have become prevalent in our society as a result of our poor hygienic culture, all of which in the worse scenario can lead to death. Well, we can make a difference if we develop or cultivate the habit of good hygiene and sanitation practices in our home and environment like the proper use of toilets, stop open defecation, proper handwashing with soap, proper disposal of your solid and liquid waste around the home, and clearing of bushes. We will save ourselves a thousand bucks from hospital bills and drugs.
- Unplanned Medical Expenses
Have you ever settled down to calculate how much money is spent on drugs or in the hospital either daily, weekly, monthly or yearly? Well lets us do a quick breakdown;
A cheap antibiotic= N400
Daily 400*1= N 400
Weekly 400*7= N 2,800
Monthly 400*30= N 12,000
This is just a rough estimate of how much we may spend on medical bills and although prices vary, all this cost can be avoided if we just have the right attitude towards conserving our environment. This is different from the money you spend on transporting yourself to and from the hospital.
- Breeding Nest
Nothing attracts all kind of harmful animals, insects, and reptiles like an unclean environment. If you want to operate a Zoo, why not say so and get a license to run one instead of causing a nuisance to the environment by defecating and urinating in the open.
- Low level of Production
You call in sick at work or you are too sick to go around your daily business, well at this point there will be no contribution or any form of production from you to the economy or your family, which reduces your value as a person during this period.
- Social outcast/stigmatization
Imagine friends and family avoid visiting your home because the first thing they see stepping into your compound is a pile of excreta staring them in the face, at the corner of your house or the load of waste and dirt littering the environment or even the messy drainage/gutter between you and your neighbor’s home. This causes an unpleasant odor in the atmosphere and leads to discomfort.
Cases of discharging waste into the open or defecating on another person’s property or land and littering a neighbor’s compound by throwing or dumping waste in it has been on the increase causing dispute between neighbors. Many such situations often lead to police and court cases. Just so you know, the mosquitoes, flies and reptiles that carry these contaminated substances are not limited to your neighbor’s house so there is need to come as a community and keep our environment tidy, clean and safe.
Having highlighted few of the effects, we need to know that it doesn’t take a millionaire to build a hygienic toilet or keep the environment clean and presentable. There low cost improvised materials that can be used to construct toilets, some of which are;
- Mud bricks
Dig a deep hole and use an old stainless plate or a flat wood, abandoned bucket, bamboo etc. suitable to serve as the cover then a handwashing container and soap for proper hygiene or for a more standard toilet, a water closet with handwashing facilities.
There might be instances where you run out of options and defecating in the open seems like the only alternative. You can still do things right – let’s take for example, you are on a journey and your system refuses to stay in place, you urgently have to defecate. Next thing, you run into a nearby bush and do your business (lots of people are guilty of this). Well, all hope is not lost, all you need to do is simply look around for a stick, dig a hole and bury the faeces. That way it is not left in the open for flies to perch on, or people to step on and it saves us all from the unpleasant odor that comes with it.
Also, common situations that encourage open defecation in developed areas are;
- Insufficient water for flushing
- Dirty toilets – where all toilets are filthy, dark, foul-smelling, or unattractive (often this is the case for shared or public toilets)
- The risk to personal safety (e.g., if the toilets are public or shared, and criminals are known to gather there to wait for possible victims) or the toilets are at some distance, it may be dangerous to get there at night
- Diarrhea may mean there is not enough time to go to a distant shared toilet
Some of the possible solutions are;
- Construct a direct pit dry latrine using ash and lid·
- Get a steep sloped slippery toilet pan and drain that needs little water to function.
- Use of toilet bags. People might already use plastic bags at night to contain their faeces, however, a more advanced solution of the plastic toilet bag has been provided by a Swedish company who are producing the “Peepoo bag”, a “personal, single-use, self-sanitizing, fully biodegradable toilet that prevents feces from contaminating the immediate area as well as the surrounding ecosystem. This bag is now being used in humanitarian responses, schools, and urban slums in developing countries.
This is all you need to save yourself and family a whole lot of money and social embarrassment. I know it is such a simple solution for such a damaging practice, so better act now before we have to explain to our children how we turned their home into a Dunghill.