The health of every child is paramount to the development of a society, but environmental situation in Jadawa Fulani communities of Dambatta LGA, Kano state where Open Defecation (OD) is still in practice, depose danger to the health of children in the community.
Hips and stench of excrete has been the chief culprit for diseases one of which is diarrhea, leading to death of children under 5years.
Meanwhile, the environmental situation of its neighbouring Yammawar-Kafawa community that has been liberated from open defecation to a certified Open defecation free(ODF) community are ripping the benefits of a cleaner environment due to its behavioural change by making use of the toilet, with each home having an affordable latrine and living a sickness free life.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said more than 100,000 children under 5years of age die each year due to diarrhea; of which 90 percent is directly traced to unsafe water and sanitation. More than half of children under the age of 5 die before their 5th year old birthday due to diseases that are preventable and treatable through simple, affordable interventions.
An end to open defecation, using clean toilets is a major way paver to stop wide spread of disease and save many young lives.
According to UNICEF, only 11 of 774 local government areas in Nigeria are free from the practice of open defecation. To corroborate this, A Water Sanitation and Hygiene Specialist, Bioye Ogunjobi at a media workshop in Kano, entitled: Clean Nigeria: Use the Toilet, disclosed that the 11 Open defecation free community was achieved through Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS).
With CLTS approach community members are engaged to realize the dangers of open defecation practice. The community decides to take collective action to develop a community action plan which is intended to improve sanitation and end open defecation. Sanitation marketing is also conducted with displays of improved latrine options for households to select their preferred choice.
Ogunjobi said “this has happened in a total number of 17 communities in Nigeria but this is a drop in the ocean. Because we are talking about 774 LGAs and we have been able to address Open defecation in only 11 LGAs that is 764 LGAs left”.
UNICEF said Nigeria needs to add 2million toilets per year between 2019 and 2025 to achieve the target of Universal Basic Sanitation, while it current delivery of improved toilet is approximately 160,000 per year.
The Tale of two Kano communities using CLTS
In a field trip to two communities in Dambatta LGA in Kano, Yammawar -Kafawa community and Jadawa Fulani community, organized by UNICEF in partnership with the Child Right Information Bureau of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, with the support of the European Union (EU) and UKaid, CLTS was introduced to both community by the official of Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency (RUASSA) and LGAs WASH department.
Yammawar -Kafawa community saw the danger of open defecation, decided to take collective action to develop a community action plan to improve sanitation and end open defecation. The community formally practicing Open Defecation became a UNICEF certified Open Defecation Free (ODF) community when it began the process of Imposing monetary fine of N3,000 for adult and N2,000 for children caught in Open Defecation.
A member of the community; Mr. Saidu Garuba shared some of the benefits and experience after ODF certification. “After ODF we have noticed there is reduction of recurrent diseases like cholera, dysentery, and diarrhea. During OD, our children fall sick all the time, they play with defecation and they fall sick, but now there is reduction in such diseases.
Garuba said, “When the program was introduced they use the village heads and ward heads, they invited the entire household and sensitized us on the dangers associated with OD.
“They provided toilet, and now they call all household for meeting regularly, warning us to inform our family to make sure no child is allowed to come out and defecate. Anyone caught practicing OD, will be taken to the ward head, and the person will be taken to the village head for judgment”.
Meanwhile, Jadawa Fulani community, yet to be liberated from Open defecation id yet to find a workable community action plan to end open defecation. The community is yet to constitute laws that could discourage its members from practicing open defecation and with this practice; children face the biggest risks to their health and education.
A housewife of Jadawa-fulani community, Sadika Bello, explains that they practice open defecation because they have no toilet, “My husband did not build toilet in our house. We come out here whenever we want to defecate. Other people in the community do the same. As a housewife, I’m not happy with this because of the embarrassment, especially when men are passing by at the time am defecating. Men will see me because there is no cover. I pleaded with my husband to build toilet in our house and he promised to do so but he hasn’t”.
Giving his view on the Clean Nigeria: Use the Toilet Campaign in Dambatta, Ado Muhktar, spokesperson to Sarkin Bai, district head of Dambatta, Dr. Muhktar Adnan, said they are proud and thankful for the reduction of diseases in the community and the progress in the community.
“When the program was introduce to the community, they liked it but again the issues of funding to construct toilets came in, so they were looking at it, as why should they spend money when they are familiar with their old ways of doing things.
“So instead of putting the money there they would rather continue with their normal life and use their money elsewhere because they were already used to OD. So as far as they are concerned, they have not been any problem; later when children were affected by diarrhea, they will not be able to link it to OD but the moment they understood the benefits, they started contributing and initiating the construction and they have all done it.
Open defecation can lead to water pollution when rain flushes faeces that are dispersed in the environment into surface water or unprotected wells. Children particularly are vulnerable to ingesting faeces of other people that are lying around after open defecation because young children crawl on the ground and put things in their mouth without washing their hands.
Data from the Nigeria Demographic Health Survey (NDHS 2013) showed that the annual live-birth figure in Kano state is 575,000. Out of this, 101,000 die before their fifth birthday. The survey showed that Kano has the highest annual live-birth and death figures in the country. This translate to one in every five children losing their lives to diarrhea in the state every year.
According to the 2018 National Outcome Routine Mapping, NORM, report, 47 million Nigerians defecate in the open while the country lose N455 billion annually due to poor sanitation. Nigeria ranks second highest in countries practicing open defecation behind Indian.
Chairman of Dambatta LGA, Honourable Idris Haruna Zago, noted through the department of WASH there is constant enlightenment to the people about the danger in open defecation. He added that by 2025, Dambatta LGA will be free from open defecation.
When asked if Dambatta LGA can become ODF by 2025? “We will try our best and scale up, because you can go by what you can see on ground now, from now to 2025, if you come hear you will ask if there is an open defecation in Dambatta LG”, he said.
A communication specialist, with UNICEF, Dr. Geoffrey Njoku urged media to step up reportage of issues around sanitation and sensitize the people on the need to shun open defecation and imbibe use of toilet.
He said the campaign to combat open defecation has been going on with the #endopendefecation and #cleannigeria tags on social media.
Bringing behavioural change to ensure use of toilet could be a tough task, but if achievable in Yammawar Fulani Community through paying of fine, this could be replicated in 774 LGAs.
The government must play a pivotal role for this to succeed by providing improved toilets on every street in states across the country, intensify efforts on awareness and education on the dangers of Open Defecation by instructing community leaders to imbibe the easiest way out, as well as provide loans to homes that cannot afford toilet construction.
There has been enough invented diseases troubling the earth, the earth occupants shouldn’t add to the list.