The pressing issue of sanitation in Nigeria
We shall not defeat any of the infectious diseases that plague the developing world until we have also won the battle for safe drinking water, sanitation, and basic health care. – Kofi Annan
- For the past 15 years, Nigeria has remained in the top 5 open defecation countries in the world.
- 130 million Nigerians have no access to improved sanitation.
- Only 1 in 4 Nigerians have access to a basic toilet.
- 122,000 Nigerians including 87,000 children die due to diarrhoea each year.
- NGN 455 billion is lost each year due to lack of sanitation.
For first time readers these figures may be startling, but Nigerians have been battling for decades together to get these numbers down. Inadequate sanitation facilities have had several health and environmental implications and the whole country is on the verge of a health crisis.
Open defecation is not only a health hazard but also an environmental one since the waste is carried into natural sources of water, polluting them and leading to the spread of water-borne diseases like Cholera. Open defecation does not only cause such diseases but also serves as an excellent breeding ground for mosquitoes and other insects. If these insects happen to get in contact with food and drinks that are ingested by people, further illnesses can be caused.
Open defecation is one of the worst causes of malnutrition in children. It also leads to other issues like stunted growth, a weak immune system and susceptibility to diseases like tuberculosis and pneumonia.
The harmful bacteria and toxins spread through open defecation lead to foul odour and pollute the water, air, ecosystem and the aesthetic beauty of the environment. Agricultural produce is also hit badly because toxins from the faecal matter find their way to groundwater sources which are used for irrigation of crops.
The Nigerian Government has taken up steps in addressing this pressing challenge. While the local Government needs to address these issues, the people along with private sector and NGOs also need to help the Government to create stronger solutions like bio-toilets or composting toilets that focus on faster treatment of faecal sludge matter.
Microbial technology is the best solution wherein selected strains of microbes utilize faecal pollutants as their source of nutrient and perform faster faecal sludge degradation with minimal odour. This is the strongest weapon Nigeria could possess to fight the sanitation problem.
The dearth of sanitary sewerage systems demands the need of microbial enzymatic technology which uses organic enzymes to degrade pollutants in faecal waste. This improves the water efficiency of toilet and sewerage systems.
Zero reliance on chemical methods to treat the problem of cleaning up Nigeria is the only way forward. The waste disposal process through bio-augmentation is environmentally sensitive since it does not affect humans, animals, or water systems and would be a catalyst in protecting the unique flora and fauna and waterways to improve public health and help create a more aware and ailment free, strong community.