About 32 million Nigerians lack access to latrines and resort to defecating in public, a report published by the Water and Sanitation Programme on Monday stated.
According to the report, titled “Economic Impacts of Poor Sanitation in Africa”, Nigeria loses a whopping N455 billion ($3 billion) annually due to poor sanitation, a sum equivalent to US$20 per person in Nigeria each year.
The report stated that Nigerians spend 2.5 days per year, looking for a private spot in public to defecate or urinate, and the effect on the nation’s health is profound.
“Approximately 121,800 Nigerians, including 87,100 children under 5, die each year from iarrhea – nearly 90% of which is directly attributed to poor water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). In addition poor sanitation is a contributing factor – through its impact on malnutrition rates – to other leading causes of child mortality including malaria, ALRI and measles,” the statement said.
As a result, the WSP report said, the nation spends some US$ 191 million in health care costs treating diseases related to poor sanitation.
“Diarrheal diseases directly, and indirectly via malnutrition (and its consequences for other diseases such as respiratory infections and malaria) are all leading causes of morbidity. Costs associated with health seeking behaviour include consultation, medication, transport and in some cases hospitalisation – which place a heavy burden on households and government spending.”
The WSP, funded by the World Bank, also warned in the report that the impact of poor sanitation practices go far beyond health and economic implications.
“Open defecation also has considerable social costs. Loss of dignity and privacy or risk of physical attack and sexual violence may not be easily valued in monetary units, but these issues are the reality when sanitation facilities are not available.”
The report went on to say that while open defecation costs Nigeria US$1 billion per year, eiminating the practice would require less than 6.5 million latrines to be built and used.