By Hassan Zaggi
Nigeria is losing N455billion ($1.3billion) annually to poor sanitation, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), has said.
UNICEF said that the amount represents one per cent of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
UNICEF Chief of Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), Zaid Jurji, disclosed this at a media training in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.
Jurji said that the losses are due to premature deaths, healthcare costs, and reduced time and productivity.
UNICEF added 47 million Nigerians do not have toilets while another 75 million used unimproved toilets.
The gross implication, according to him, is that the affected people, including vulnerable women and children, suffer as a result of ingesting contaminated water/food and living in unsanitary conditions.
Nigeria, the UNICEF chief declared has the largest number of people who engage in open defecation in Africa.
Also, Nigeria has the second highest number of people that defecate in the open globally with 47 million people while India tops the list with 522 million
Ironically, more people have access to cell phones than toilets in Nigeria.
While quoting the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) January 2018 Report, the UNICEF chief saidthat 140 million people have cell phones and only 97 million have access to improved sanitation in the country.
He further said that ₦234 billion is needed to attain Open Defecation Free (ODF) Nigeria by 2025 and expressed concern that over 122,000 Nigerians, including 87,000 children under five years die yearly from diarrhoea; nearly 90 per cent directly attributed to lack of WASH.
Jurji disclosed that Nigeria needs a total investment of N959 billion annually to end open defecation.
The breakdown, according to him, included household costs is N725 billion and government cost N234 billion
“If Nigeria loses N455 billion each year due to lack of sanitation and needs only N95.9billion per year to eliminate open defecation, the economic gains could be about N359.1 billion ($1.026 billion) each year,” he stressed. .
The Acting Permanent Secretary of the Rivers State Ministry of Water Resources and Rural Development, Mr. Emmanuel Ametemeso, praised UNICEF for its life-saving interventions which are supported by the European Union (EU) in the area of Water Sanitation and Hygiene in the five South-South states (Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Bayelsa, Rivers, Delta and Edo.