Water, Sanitation for All, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), has said that 0pen defecation remains the biggest challenge to reducing water borne diseases in Nigeria.
The Coordinator of the NGO, Mr Yunusa Abdullahi, made the statement in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Tuesday.
Abdullahi said it was saddening to note that no fewer than 33 million people still practised open defecation in Nigeria.
According to him, the migration of people from the rural to urban areas has made the demand for water supply to be on the increase.
He said that many urban settlements lacked hygiene facilities, resulting in open defecation.
He explained that open defecation posed a threat to the people as the faeces was eventually washed down drinking water sources.
Abdullahi called for attitudinal change to reducing waterborne diseases, saying it was important for Nigerians to cultivate the habit of cleanliness.
He said good hygiene, often termed as `a personal thing’, should reflect in the daily lives of Nigerians and that people should not be compelled to maintain clean environments.
“Sanitation starts with the individual, those things you do involuntarily become your attitude.
“You wake up in the morning, you use the toilet, you flush the toilet, you brush your teeth, you wash your body before going to work, nobody prompts you to do it, you do it, it comes voluntarily and becomes a part of you.
“In a sense, sanitation is personal, those personal things you do, attitudes you cultivate to improve your cleanliness, from there.
“It goes to the family, everybody sweeps in their home, it is part of sanitation, sanitation starts from the family point.
“The garbage you bring out must be disposed properly, so sanitation has a huge role to play in the family, community and to the nation,” he said.
The coordinator said government was doing a lot to improve access to sanitation, although basic access to sanitation in Nigeria still stood at about 41 per cent.
Abdullahi said water was life as 70 per cent of ailments were water related.
He also said cholera, which is a waterborne disease, affected mostly children and adults who lived in unhygienic environments and consumed unwholesome water.
He added that the intake of contaminated foods could also be linked to illnesses.
He, however, called on all Nigerians to cultivate the habit of hand washing to reduce unnecessary deaths from waterborne disease.
“What we are saying is that, as you go on your daily activities, before you eat your food, after shaking hands, interacting in the office, wash your hand.
“You can wash your hands up to four times in the office so as to improve your hygiene to minimise the transmission of diseases.
“Washing your hands with soap or ashes in running water helps to break the transmission of waterborne diseases.
“So, that is what we are advocating that if we can do it for Ebola, we can do it for cholera and others.
“We need to draw the lessons on Ebola and other diseases that affect our people, together, we can achieve a disease-free nation,” he said.