Open Defecation A National Emergency—WaterAid Nigeria

‘A Gram Of Human Waste Contains Over 10 Million Viruses, Parasites’

Nanbam Michael is the Project Manager on the Kimberly Clark Corporation project being facilitated by WaterAid, Nigeria.

The project, titled ‘Sanitation and Hygiene Improvement Project,’ is being piloted in two local councils of Ikorodu North and Ojodu Local Council Development Areas, representing rural and peri-urban communities.

Michael, who facilitated at a three-day Water and Sanitation Hygiene advocacy workshop in Lagos, recently, explained the project and how it is expected to be carried out.

She is also alarmed at the high rate of open defecation in Nigeria, stating the dangers in the practice including the fact that a gram of feces contains millions of viruses, among other dangers and must not return to the homes.

DAYO EMMANUEL talked with her. Excerpts:

Can you explain what this project stands for and how it is to be implemented?

The project is generally an improvement on sanitation and hygiene for vulnerable people in selected councils of Ojodu and Ikorodu North LCDAs of Lagos State.

I mentioned improvement because people know about hygiene and sanitation. What we would do is to strengthen community system, pregnant women, lactating mothers and community people and also school pupils especially girls and even the boys. So in the communities we want to talk about the dangers of open defecation and for people to take responsibilities and handle the issues.

We know that the Federal Government has declared WASH sector as an emergency and we know that Nigeria has a large number of people doing open defecation. There are guidelines and activities put down by the Federal Government: the campaign to use the toilet that we are adapting by WaterAid in Lagos State with the support of LASG ministry of environment, to review their policy about wash issues.

We can’t talk about water without hygiene. They are interwoven. We are targeting women who will come for antenatal. We want to talk to them about the critical times to wash their hands after using the toilet, after cleaning their babies, which  will reduce their chances of contracting water related diseases by 50 per cent.

In schools, we want to talk to children and teachers about hygiene, personal hygiene and menstrual hygiene. We want to break the barrier and it is not just taking care of the diseases. We want to tell them on how to take care of themselves, we want to talk about menstrual hygiene, we want to boost the confidence of the girls. The boys may be laughing at them when they are on  their period, they may not go to school as a result and there is tendency of dropping out.


So we want to talk about the dangers of open defecation. If everybody is maintaining hygiene and one person is not, the community is not safe. When there is open defecation, animals and insects take it back to the community and it is very important for the community to gather and take decision.

A research has revealed that a gram of human waste contains 10million viruses. That same gram carries 1,000 bacteria, 1,000 parasite seeds and 100 parasite eggs. So, just imagine what a heap of human dung can do! They can get dried and go straight to our water, our communities, go back to our homes and get us sick.

So, this program is supporting Lagos State Government to key into the Federal Government’s campaign and also support the vulnerable people.

This project will construct some facilities in schools and health centres. It will also provide educational materials and reusable materials for girls in schools. This program is also going to strengthen institutions like the ministry of education. We are working with them, we are working with PHCs, CSOs and the media. We want to come together to make it a reality, we want to take action and develop a work plan on how to implement it.

Can you give an overview of the training?

The Kimberly Clark Corporation project to be facilitated by WaterAid wants everybody to be on board. This workshop is an advocacy and communication plan. We want to develop a plan with the media and the CSOs, we are talking about advocacy and action plan, we want to see how the media can advocate and make the government take action. We want to see how the CSO can support and advocate to the government. We want to see a situation where the media will go to these communities and come back later and see how they are improving, write about it and tell the government what is happening so that Lagos State can take up and replicate what Kimberly Clark Corporation and WaterAid are doing in the two LCDAs that we are working in as a pilot. Not all covers what we are working on, the plan is to make it a pilot program and for the government to replicate it.

Why Lagos State for the pilot?

Lagos is large, the population is large. Lagos is a very good environment where we can get the activities on WASH because of the population. You will agree with me you may have some facilities like toilets but it is not enough because people are still doing open defecation.

For some, it is the behavioral change they need. For some, it is lack of facilities. So we want to be sure that everybody has access. And Lagos, because of the population, Lagos is huge and issues around water and sanitation are actually basic needs for everybody.

If you are able to get Lagos to see this, then in Nigeria and Africa, I think it is something that can be replicated.

Post Author: Tayo Olanipekun