If you schooled or live in Nigeria, you will at one point have heard of the term shotput (or probably been a partaker too I promise I won’t judge you). Today, we would be unpacking open defecation, its impact, and what measures can be put in place to combat this menace.
Open defecation is the act of passing faeces from the body into the open rather than a toilet.
Open defecation is a problem in Lagos. One of the reasons I can point to is that we do not have the facilities for people to use and in the case where we have them, I doubt that people will want to use the public toilets or even pay to use them.
This problem prompted the Governor of Lagos in 2019 to take policy steps in ensuring that clean water and sanitation will be accessible to the people of Lagos.
Impacts of open defecation
Asides from the irritation of the awful smell (you would want to pass out from this), there are more grievous health issues associated with this practice.
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- Exposure to open defecation through ingesting polluted water causes diarrhea especially in children due to their susceptibility to diseases.
- Open defecation is linked to malnutrition in children in that once there is exposure to hygiene-related illnesses, they lose bodily fluids and appetite for food.
- Human excreta attracts a lot of insects and flies that are carriers of diseases like cholera. These flies can perch on drinks and foods which can be ingested by people unknowingly.
- Open defecation causes stunted growth in children. Stunting is when a child’s height is low in comparison to other children in their age bracket.
Solutions to open defecation
How do we solve the issue of open defecation and all that it brings with it?
- There should be enough toilets for citizens (I am not saying we should turn Lagos from a megacity into a toilet city). Toilets should be placed in strategic places that are easily accessible.
- Education plays a part in behavioral change. Sensitizing people on how open defecation harms the health will help people make the necessary adjustments.
- The government can support NGOs who have WASH (Water, sanitation, and hygiene) training programs catering to low-income communities.
- I know it is weird to see poo as a resource. Human poo in all of its smell, shape, size, and consistency can be converted to biogas. I believe the government can tap into this, letting people know that their poo is valuable if the toilets provided are used.