As the sun rose, three-year-old Taiwo walked towards his parents’ shack in a slum in Odeniran, a community in Lagos, southwestern Nigeria known as Monkey Village. Since the state government demolished houses in the area, some residents have built shacks that could barely serve as shelter – they are in the open where residents sleep without access to basic social amenities such as toilets and drinking water.
While little Taiwo was crying from diarrhea pains, his mother went out to sell sweet beans, commonly known as Ewa Agonyine. He should endure until she returns.
“You know they eat a lot of beans and I think he has diarrhoea. He will be fine,” Mensah Dew, a community leader, told HumAngle.
Next, Dew led the way to a small shack near a tank that serves as a restroom for the community of over 100 residents.
“This is our toilet and we have no water except this carnal. We walk up to a mile to two miles to fetch water. You know our borehole and properties were destroyed when the village monkeys was torn down,” he said. “You see the kind of place we’ve been subjected to and you expect the kids to be healthy?
Located near the Opebi Link Bridge in the Ikeja axis of the state, since the state government’s demolition of Monkey Village in December 2021, residents have migrated a few meters away and formed a small community near the heap of waste. People have erected shacks and others have established businesses where they prepare and sell various delicacies.
The family of Jummai Lawal, 52, had to adopt what they call the ‘take away’ method of disposing of excrement. The mother of nine and her children pass the excreta into a polythene bag and then dispose of it.
“We don’t have toilets, we don’t have water either. our toilets are takeout, we poop in nylon and throw it behind us,” she said.
Jummai’s life changed drastically after Monkey Village was evicted and demolished in March 2021. To make matters worse, her husband left her for another woman after losing her money, clothes and other belongings. value upon demolition.
Safura, 42, echoed Jummai’s complaint about the lack of water and toilets, saying “there are no toilets here, we do it in a nylon and throw it away.”
No water, no toilets
Emite Jida, another resident, lamented the lack of toilets and drinking water in the environment. “I buy water to make the tea I sell, and in case I don’t have any, I use pure water,” she explained, before adding: “We defecate inside the leather and throw it away”.
Other women who spoke with HumAngle said they had to resort to open defecation because their homes, community borehole and toilets had all been bulldozed.
“There is no water or toilets, how do you expect us to respond to nature’s call?” they said in unison.
The trend, the efforts
Open defecation is not confined to rural areas or slums in Nigeria, it also occurs in Nigeria’s cities, among the educated class in public tertiary institutions, commercial areas and residential areas. It is simply passing the excreta out in the open rather than in hygienic places.
Nigeria overtook India as the world’s top open defecation country in October 2019. 50 million Nigerians (or 10 million households) are reported defecate in the open.
Over 47 million Nigerians are reported publicly defecate in bushes, gutters, sidewalks, car parks, recreation areas, rivers and roads, among others. Over the years, efforts have been made to limit the number of occurrences of open defecation in the country. Sadly, these are still mostly efforts, with only 14 of the country’s 774 local governments free of open defecation.
In 2019, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari signed Executive Order 009 to start working on open defecation. In the same year, the Nigerian Ministry of Water Resources, in collaboration with UNICEF and other key agencies, launched an initiative called “Nigeria Open-Defecation-Free By 2025: A National Road Map” to end this harmful practice by 2025.
Besides the social stigma that comes with being the most populous black country in the world, open defecation has obvious environmental, health and economic implications for Nigeria and its people. It pollutes the environment and exposes infants and adults to major health problems, including diarrhea (resulting in premature deaths).
According to UNICEF, the rate of open defecation in Nigeria possesses remained stable at 23%. Sadly, up to 46 million Nigerians continue to defecate in the open.
Also a report by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Joint Monitoring Program for Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (JMP) of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) revealed that approximately 418 million people in Africa still do not have access to a basic drinking water service, 779 million lack basic sanitation facilities (including 208 million who still practice open defecation) and 839 million still lack basic sanitation services.
A UNICEF report title ‘Making Nigeria Open-Defecation free by 2025’ revealed that Nigeria will need approximately 959 billion Nigerian Naira ($2.7 billion) to eradicate open defecation by 2025. The government is expected to contribute about a quarter of that, or NGN 234 billion, justified by the fact that the country loses NGN 455 billion a year due to poor sanitation.
The remaining 75% of the cost will be borne by households.
Temple Chukwuemeka Oraeki, Programs Coordinator, International Water Association, Young Water Professionals Nigeria, said the key to solving open defecation and sanitation challenges is the ” behaviour change “.
He said there must be consistent advocacy to change people’s minds. “On the other hand, the government should start enforcing Executive Order 009. It’s just there on paper without any action.
“We should start by fixing all the water boards in the state! Put in place an accountability system (independent monitoring system). There are so many funds and investments in the sector, but with little results on the ground,” he said.
Attempts by HumAngle to get a response from the government failed as the spokesperson for the Lagos State Environmental and Special Offenses Unit, Kehinde Adebayo, did not respond to text messages and phone calls.
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