Open defecation has been identified as the major cause of diseases. In Ekiti State, many houses still lack toilets. Even many homes in Ado-Ekiti, the state capital, do not have this facility.
Despite its sobriquets of “Fountain of Knowledge” and Land of Honour”, the state has the highest rate of open defecation in Nigeria.
The problem pervades urban and rural areas. The messy situation has become a challenge for the Ministry of Environment, Ekiti Waste Management Board (EKWMB), Rural and Water Supply and Sanitation Agency (RUWASSA) and other agencies charged with maintaining a clean environment.
Surprisingly, Ekiti State observes environmental sanitation like other states on the last Saturday of every month. Apart from the general sanitation, civil servants, market men and women are also compelled to carry out environmental sanitation on other designated days.
Many parts of Ado-Ekiti are dotted with overflowing garbage bins and incinerators. In some places, such as Okutagbokutalori in Okeyinmi area of the town, residents dump their garbage on the ground. Those places provide people opportunity to defecate openly.
Many houses in areas, such as Odo-Ado, Oke-Ila, Okeyinmi, Okesa, Ojumose, Oke-Ese, Irona, Ijigbo and Atikankan lack toilets making the residents to defecate openly.
Apparently concerned by the development, the European Union (EU) and United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have decided to reverse it in order to promote better hygiene and sanitation among the people.
The bodies have committed huge financial, material and human resources to the Water Supply and Sanitation Sector Reform Programme (WSSSRP) III.
At a two-day media networking and alliance building workshop held in Ijero-Ekiti, headquarters of Ijero Local Government Area, and sponsored by UNICEF, open defecation dominated deliberations.
In Ekiti, about 1.8 million people representing over 60 per cent of the 2.7 million population still defecate openly. Experts say if the situation is not checked, the projected population that will be practising open defecation by 2025 will rise to 4.3 million.
Open defecation has become an issue because it constitutes health hazard and outbreak of diseases such as cholera, diarrhoea, worm infestations; typhoid and contributes to child and adult mortality.
While the city which is peopled by more educated and exposed people wallows in environmental deterioration and poor hygiene practices, the rural communities are showing the way on how not to foul the environment with human waste.
The need for a collective action to stop open defecation was a step taken by EU and UNICEF to bring media practitioners together to brainstorm on how to use their platforms to promote water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) practices.
The two local government areas for the EU/UNICEF sanitation agenda were Ekiti West and Gbonyin with 313 rural communities and 30 rural primary schools in the council areas billed to benefit from 460 hand pump boreholes and 60 sanitation blocks.
The counterpart funding ratio for the construction of these facilities is 70 per cent to EU/UNICEF, 18 per cent to state and 12 per cent to the local government areas. The communities are also expected to contribute five per cent which will be left with the community as seed money for operation and maintenance.
In the affected communities, water, sanitation and hygiene committees (WASHCOMs) were established as vanguards of proper hygiene practices and to carry out interface with the community-led total health facilitators (CLTS).
As part of the workshop, a field trip was organised which took journalists to two farm settlements in Ekiti West Local Government Area.
The leader of the UNICEF delegation, Ms. Mohsena Islam, described the media as an important and strategic partner in creating awareness and sensitising the people.
Ms. Islam, who is also sanitation specialist, UNICEF Lagos Field Office said the two communities namely Temidire Elejofi Farm Settlement and Aba Asasa Farm Settlement both in Ekiti West Local Government Area have keyed into the war against open defecation by constructing toilets latrine facilities for each family.
She said: “We go to communities where it is demonstrated; we have to work with the communities to sensitise them to the need to embrace hygienic lifestyle so that it would not seem as if it was imposed on them.
“The community leaders are involved. We have been able to get 26 communities and we are looking at how monitoring can be done. We also do hygiene promotion, going from one household to another to communicate the messages.”
First to be visited by the journalists, UNICEF and RUWASSA officials was Temidire Olojofi which is located off Aramoko-Ado Ekiti Highway and linked by a wooden bridge over the community river.
The settlement is surrounded by cocoa, kola nut and banana plantations and it is populated by the Oyos, the Urhobos and the Togolese who are bound together by massive agricultural activities.
The people were full of enthusiasm in receiving the delegation and were proud to show off their household latrines to announce to the world that open defecation has become history among them.
A community leader, Kareem Isola, revealed that they had settled on the land for over 50 years, even as he praised EU/UNICEF for enlightening them on the need to construct latrines to prevent outbreak of communicable diseases.
Isola said: “We are all farmers and we have been here for more than 50 years. These people always come here to give us enlightenment on the evils associated with open defecation.
“They advised us that each family should have its own latrine, each family contributed money and materials needed to make our toilets. At the back of the houses, there are latrines for the families.