The World Health Organisation, WHO, has initiated Sanitation Safety Planning, SSP, interventions in five states to combat the transmission of faecal-oral diseases and enhance sanitation across the country.
Dr Edwin Isotu-Edeh, National Consultant for Public Health and Environment at WHO Nigeria, announced the implementation during the National Workshop on Safely Managed Sanitation, SMS, on Thursday in Abuja.
The states–Lagos, Bayelsa, Niger, Sokoto and Bauchi—drawn from the six geopolitical zones, are the focal points for this comprehensive effort which started in 2021.
The interventions aim to address various challenges, such as fighting open defecation, combating water-borne diseases like cholera, addressing Antimicrobial Resistance , AMR, and facilitating the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 6.
Edeh said the move comes in response to the alarming health risks associated with poor sanitation, including outbreaks of WASH-related diseases such as cholera, typhoid fever, diarrheal diseases, and neglected tropical diseases.
Discussing Nigeria’s national disease burden, Isotu-Edeh highlighted that a significant 29 per cent was linked to environmental risk factors, including inadequate WASH services, climate change, and chemical exposure.
He pointed out alarming sanitation statistics, indicating that 48 million people engaged in open defecation, with a mere 4.5 per cent of Nigeria’s WASH investment allocated to sanitation.
Isotu-Edeh emphasised the necessity for change, highlighting the absence of sanitation in the country’s yearly economic plan.
He urged political actors to prioritize comprehensive sanitation measures for improved public health, saying the private sector involvement would be beneficial.
“It is worrisome that sanitation has not been positioned in our economic plans, however, there are huge benefits in its value chain; we must all make sanitation attractive and get champions that would drive the change process,’’ he said.
Addressing the escalating vulnerability of health systems due to climate change, he stressed that a temperature rise of 2-3°C was projected to increase the risks of water-borne diseases like cholera, typhoid, and lassa fever.
Dr Ibrahim Kabir, Director General of Bauchi State Environmental Protection Agency, BASEPA, highlighted the pressing issue of fecal sludge management in the state, posing a threat to public health safety.
He said that health risks stemming from water contamination, due to improper disposal of fecal sludge, prompted the training of 1,063 manual pit latrine evacuators.
Kabir emphasised the ongoing development of Fecal Sludge Management guidelines and stressed the importance of fostering an environment conducive to private sector involvement in the sanitation value chain.
While advocating for attitudinal change, he urged all stakeholders to contribute to enhancing sanitation and promoting hygiene in the state.
Credible news reports that the gathering, which brought together stakeholders from national and sub-national levels, development partners and the private sector, marked a significant step towards achieving universal and sustainable access to sanitation.