Nigeria Approaches its Open Defecation Free Target Date

6 Nov 2023 by The Water Diplomat

In a blog in Nigeria Health Watch , arguments have been presented proposing ways to accelerate access to sanitation in the country. These include the need for more active involvement of subnational government – states and municipalities, investments in public sanitation facilities, the application of community-led sanitation initiatives, and the involvement of the private sector.

Although Nigeria has set itself the goal of being free of open defecation by 2025, UNICEF has estimated that Nigeria will need to build 3.9 million toilets annually to achieve its 2025 target. Speaking at a conference in July 2023, UNICEF Nigeria chief Jane Bevan stated that the current rate of toilet construction is far below the rate needed to achieve the target, at between 180,000 and 200,000 toilets annually.

 UNICEF has recently included Nigeria amongst the countries in its 'Make a Splash' programme which was operational in Tanzania, Kenya and Ethiopia and aims to overcome barriers in ensuring access to sanitation.  

According to findings from the 2018 WASH National Outcome Routine Mapping survey, only 57.4% of Nigerian households have access to an ‘improved’ form of sanitation – the indicator for basic sanitation during the Millennium Development Goal period. For the monitoring of access to sanitation during the SDG period, the bar for what is considered access to sanitation has been raised. ‘Safely managed sanitation’ is the highest service level in this framework, and it constitutes the use  of ‘improved’ facilities that are, additionally, not shared with other households and where excreta are safely disposed of in situ or transported and treated offsite.

Between 2018 and 2021, the number of Nigerians practicing open defecation increased from 47 to 48 million people, representing 23% of the population. It appears from these statistics that access to sanitation services is stagnating, as the rate of toilet construction is not keeping pace with the rate of population growth. Approaches such as Community Led Total Sanitation Community Led Total Sanitation , a participatory approach to expanding rural sanitation services which started in Bangladesh and India have demonstrated success in removing obstacles to the uptake of sanitation solutions.