WaterAid Nigeria has said that only 31 per cent of Nigerians had access to improved sanitation while 112 million others lacked the facility.
According to a statement to mark the World Toilet Day, signed by Oluseyi Abdulmalik, the Communication and Campaigns Manager of the organisation, 37 million Nigerians, representing 23 per cent of the population, still practise open defecation, with only two years to the 2015 deadline to meet the Millennium Development Goals.
The statement also noted that nearly 100,000 children under five die of diarrhoea in the country annually due to poor level access to sanitation and water.
It further said that the lack of decent sanitation also affected productivity and livelihoods.
“It is not just about the unhygienic conditions; without a private toilet, women and girls are vulnerable to violence, intimidation and indignity. Women and girls living in Nigeria without toilet facilities spend 3.1 billion hours each year finding a place to go to the toilet in the open.
“Sanitation remains the most neglected and off-track of the MDGs, with little funding, resources or political will to address the crisis. This has damaged developing economies where an estimated five per cent of the countries’ GDP is lost to illness and deaths caused by dirty water and lack of sanitation.
“There has also been little or no progress towards the agreed target of allocating 0.5 per cent of GDP to sanitation,’’ the statement said.
It said that the lack of such essential services had created a “massive” crisis for developing countries, undermining health systems, education, economic development, and progress on gender equality.
It listed other impediments to include poor water, sanitation and hygiene.
According to the statement, the World Bank has estimated that for every one dollar invested in sanitation, eight dollars was returned to the economy.
This it noted, could be one of the most effective investments that Nigeria could make to grow its economy.
It expressed regret that in spite of the numerous national and international commitments, politicians were still not paying adequate attention to the poor sanitation situation in the country.
“The Nigerian Government has pledged to increase the rate of sanitation access from 31 per cent currently to 65 per cent and water access from 61 per cent to 75 per cent by 2015.
“These are ambitious targets, particularly considering that Nigeria is one of the few African countries where the rate of access to sanitation actually fell from 37 per cent in 1990 to 31 per cent this year.’’