By Tosin Kolade
Prof. Joseph Utsev, Minister of Water Resources and Sanitation, has called on states and local governments to support the Federal Government in addressing poor sanitation conditions in the country.
Utsev, who spoke at the National Workshop on Safely Managed Sanitation (SMS) on Tuesday in Abuja, highlighted the urgent need to address challenges in the Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) sector.
The minister underscored the crucial role sanitation played in public health, community well-being, and national prosperity.
Citing a 2012 World Bank report, he revealed that poor sanitation cost Nigeria an estimated N455 billion annually; emphasising the economic impact on healthcare, productivity, and education.
Utsev regretted the social costs of open defecation, including loss of dignity and increased vulnerability to violence.
The minister acknowledged the current off-track progress in Nigeria on the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 6.2, which aimed to achieve equitable sanitation and hygiene for all by 2030.
“With only 46 per cent of the population having access to basic sanitation services and 25 per cent practicing open defecation, the country faces the challenge of tripling its investment to achieve the SDG target,’’ he said.
Utsev reiterated the Federal Government’s commitment to SDG 6, linking it to national development goals such as food security, poverty eradication, economic growth, and inclusivity.
He said that the sanitation value chain had the potential to reduce healthcare costs, boost productivity, and spur economic growth.
The minister expressed gratitude to partners, including UNICEF, World Bank, WHO, and WaterAid, for their continuous support, anticipating that the workshop’s outcomes would contribute to a future where safely managed sanitation was a reality for all Nigerians.
UNICEF’s Chief of Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH), Dr Jane Bevan, highlighted the progress and challenges in Nigeria’s sanitation efforts.
Bevan said that in spite achieving open defecation-free status in 117 local government areas, there remained significant concerns.
She said that improper disposal of waste by pit emptiers in hazardous locations posed a threat to water sources, led to pollution and the spread of infections and impacted Nigeria’s vulnerable children who lacked defence against diseases like cholera.
Bevan said there was need to view sanitation beyond just having toilets, emphasising the importance of considering the entire sanitation value chain, including the safe disposal of waste.
She expressed concern that without addressing the end disposal process, despite having functional toilets, there was a substantial public health risk for Nigeria’s population.
Bevan reflected on her involvement in community-led total sanitation since the early 2000s and commended the progress made but harped on the continued need for substantial efforts to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
WaterAid Nigeria’s Country Director, Ms Evelyn Mere, expressed worries over the global and national failure to meet open defecation targets.
Mere, represented by Mr Kolawole Banwo, highlighted the country’s ambition to achieve open defecation-free status by 2025 through campaigns promoting toilet construction.
She questioned the fate of captured faecal matter and emphasised that a single 5m³ truck of faecal sludge equals 5000 people practicing open defecation.
Mere warned that without addressing the entire sanitation service chain, open defecation goals would remain elusive, potentially leading to displaced open defecation and escalating public health challenges.
The country director underscored the urgent need for collaboration among stakeholders to elevate safely managed sanitation as a national aspiration and human right.
Highlighting the importance of a robust policy framework, Mere announced WaterAid’s collaboration with the Federal Government to develop a National Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) policy.
The country director said that citizen-led groups and subcommittee members would receive continuous capacity-building sessions to achieve safely managed sanitation.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the gathering, which brought together stakeholders from national and subnational levels, development partners and the private sector, marked a significant step towards achieving universal and sustainable access to sanitation. (NAN) www.nannews.ng
Edited by Chijioke Okoronkwo