Open Defecation: Tale of two Kano communities and Community Led Total Sanitation

WorldStage Newsonline– While the health of every child is paramount to the development of a society, environmental situation in Jadawa Fulani communities of Dambatta LGA, Kano state where Open Defecation (OD) is still in practice, deposes danger to the health of children in the community.

Hips and stench of excrete have been the chief culprits for diseases, one of which is diarrhea, leading to death of children under 5 years.

Meanwhile, the environmental situation of its neighbouring Yammawar-Kafawa community that has been liberated from open defecation to a certified Open defecation free(ODF). The community is ripping the benefits of a cleaner environment due to its behavioural change by making use of the toilet, with each home having an affordable latrine and living a sickness free life.    

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said more than 100,000 children under 5 years of age die each year due to diarrhea; of which 90 percent is directly traced to unsafe water and sanitation.


Chairman of Dambatta LGA, Honourable Idris Haruna Zago

More than half of children under the age of 5 die before their 5th year old birthday due to diseases that are preventable and treatable through simple, affordable interventions.

An end to open defecation, using clean toilets is a major way to stop wide spread of disease and save many young lives. 

According to UNICEF, only 11 of 774 local government areas in Nigeria are free from the practice of open defecation. To corroborate this, a Water Sanitation and Hygiene Specialist, BioyeOgunjobi at a media workshop in Kano, entitled: Clean Nigeria: Use the Toilet, disclosed that the 11 open defecation free communities were achieved through Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS).

With CLTS approach, community members are engaged to realize the dangers of open defecation practice. The community decides to take collective action to develop a community action plan which is intended to improve sanitation and end open defecation. Sanitation marketing is also conducted with displays of improved latrine options for households to select their preferred choice.   


Yammawar-Kafawa community

Ogunjobi said, “this has happened in a total number of 17 communities in Nigeria, but this is a drop in the ocean. Because we are talking about 774 LGAs and we have been able to address open defecation in only 11 LGAs, that is 764 LGAs left.”

UNICEF said Nigeria needs to add 2 million toilets per year between 2019 and 2025 to achieve the target of Universal Basic Sanitation, while it’s current delivery of improved toilet is approximately 160,000 per year.

The Tale of two Kano communities using CLTS

In a field trip to two communities in Dambatta LGA in Kano, Yammawar -Kafawa community and Jadawa Fulani community, organized by UNICEF in partnership with the Child Right Information Bureau of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, with the support of the European Union (EU) and UKaid, CLTS was introduced to both community by the official of Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency (RUASSA) and LGAs WASH department.

Yammawar Fulani community saw the danger of open defecation, decided to take collective action to develop a community action plan to improve sanitation and end open defecation. The community formally practicing Open Defecation became a UNICEF certified Open Defecation Free (ODF) community when it began the process of imposing monetary fine of N3,000 for adult and N2,000 for children caught in Open Defecation.


Jadawa Fulani communities

A member of the community, Mr. Saidu Garuba who shared some of the benefits and experience after ODF certification said, “After ODF we have noticed there is reduction of recurrent diseases like cholera, dysentery, and diarrhea. During OD, our children fell sick all the time, they played with defecation and they fell sick, but now there is reduction in such diseases.

“When the program was introduced they used the village heads and ward heads, they invited the entire household and sensitized us on the dangers associated with OD.

“They provided toilets, and now they call all household for meeting regularly, warning us to inform our family to make sure no child is allowed to come out and defecate. Anyone caught practicing OD will be taken to the ward head, and the person will be taken to the village head for judgment”. 

Meanwhile, Jadawa Fulani community, yet to be liberated from Open defecation is yet to find a workable community action plan to end open defecation. The community is yet to constitute laws that could discourage its members from practicing open defecation and with this practice; children are facing the biggest risks to their health and education.


Mr Saidu Garuba, shows latrine use in his home

A housewife in the Jadawa-fulani community, Sadika Bello, explained that they practiced open defecation because they had no toilet.

She said, “My husband did not build toilet in our house. We come out here whenever we want to defecate. Other people in the community do the same. As a housewife, I’m not happy with this because of the embarrassment, especially when men are passing by at the time am defecating. Men will see me because there is no cover. I pleaded with my husband to build a toilet in our house and he promised to do so, but he hasn’t.”

Speaking on the Clean Nigeria: Use the Toilet Campaign in Dambatta, Ado Muhktar, spokesperson to SarkinBai, District Head of Dambatta, Dr.Muhktar Adnan, said they were proud and thankful for the reduction of diseases in the community and the progress in the community.

He said, “When the program was introduce to the community, they liked it, but again the issues of funding to construct toilets came in, so they were looking at it that why should they spend money when they were familiar with their old ways of doing things.

“So instead of putting the money there, they would rather continue with their normal life and use their money elsewhere because they were already used to OD. So as far as they were concerned, they had not been any problem; later when children were affected by diarrhea, they could not link it to OD, but the moment they understood the benefits, they started contributing and initiating the construction and they have all done it.”

Open defecation can lead to water pollution when rain flushes faeces that are dispersed in the environment into surface water or unprotected wells. Children particularly are vulnerable to ingesting faeces of other people that are lying around after open defecation because young children crawl on the ground and put things in their mouth without washing their hands.

Data from the Nigeria Demographic Health Survey (NDHS 2013) showed that the annual live-birth figure in Kano state is 575,000. Out of this, 101,000 die before their fifth birthday. The survey showed that Kano has the highest annual live-birth and death figures in the country. This translates to one in every five children losing their lives to diarrhea in the state every year. 

According to the 2018 National Outcome Routine Mapping (NORM) report, 47 million Nigerians defecate in the open while the country lose N455 billion annually due to poor sanitation. Nigeria ranks second highest among countries practicing open defecation behind Indian. 

Chairman of Dambatta LGA, Honourable Idris Haruna Zago, noted through the department of WASH that there is constant enlightenment of the people about the danger in open defecation. He added that by 2025, Dambatta LGA will be free from open defecation.  

When asked if Dambatta LGA can become ODF by 2025, he said, “We will try our best and scale up, because you can go by what you can see on ground now, from now to 2025, if you come here, you will ask if there is an open defecation in Dambatta LG”, he said.

A communication specialist, with UNICEF, Dr. Geoffrey Njoku urged media to step up reportage of issues around sanitation and sensitize the people on the need to shun open defecation and imbibe use of toilet.

He said the campaign to combat open defecation has been going on with the #endopendefecation and #cleannigeria tags on social media.

Bringing behavioural change to ensure use of toilet could be a tough task, but if achievable in Yammawar Fulani Community through paying of fine, this could be replicated in 774 LGAs.

The government must play a pivotal role for this to succeed by providing improved toilets on every street in the states across the country, intensify efforts on awareness and education on the dangers of Open Defecation by instructing community leaders to imbibe the easiest way out, as well as provide loans to homes that cannot afford toilet construction. 

More than enough diseases are already troubling the earth, the occupants shouldn’t add to the list.

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