Lagos, Nigeria – A new study by prominent researchers Dr. Omololu Fagunwa and Dr. Adenike Akinsemolu has uncovered an alarming open defecation crisis in Africa, urging collaborative solutions to address this pressing issue.
The study, which analyzed data from 39 African countries, reveals that millions of people across the continent are practicing open defecation, particularly in countries like Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Niger. If current trends continue, by 2030, an estimated 247 million people in these countries could be affected. In regions with critical need, the poorest are 43 times more likely to practice open defecation than the wealthy.
“Our study paints a stark picture of the open defecation crisis in Africa,” said Dr. Fagunwa. “This is not just a sanitation issue; it’s a crisis of human dignity and public health.”
The researchers highlight the stark link between poverty and open defecation, with those in rural areas disproportionately affected. In the Ilaje coastal community of Ondo State, Nigeria, open defecation, especially among children, remains a critical concern.
“The practice of open defecation, particularly in aquatic environments, significantly exacerbates the risk of waterborne diseases, posing a substantial public health challenge,” explained Dr. Akinsemolu.
Community-led Total Sanitation programs, which emphasize local involvement and behavioral change, have shown promise in addressing this issue. The researchers advocate for adapting these initiatives to the specific cultural and socio-economic contexts of African communities.
The study also raises concerns about the threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) linked to poor sanitation. Integrating AMR surveillance into health surveys is suggested to provide critical data for addressing this aspect of the sanitation crisis.
“Addressing this crisis requires a multi-pronged approach,” said Dr. Fagunwa. “Interventions must be data-driven and targeted, focusing on the most affected regions. Simultaneously, addressing poverty and inequality is crucial, and this means not just building toilets but also supporting broader economic and social policies.”
Promoting positive behavioral change is essential, emphasizing the need for governments and NGOs to invest in awareness campaigns and education to shift public attitudes towards sanitation.
“Collaboration is key,” said Dr. Akinsemolu. “This issue requires a concerted effort from all sectors, including policymakers, stakeholders, communities, and international organizations.”
As the world approaches the 2030 Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) deadline, the researchers urge stakeholders to take immediate action to eliminate open defecation in Africa.
“The time to act is now,” said Dr. Fagunwa. “We need to come together, pooling resources and expertise, to ensure that by 2030, open defecation is a thing of the past in Africa.”
This World Toilet Day, let’s acknowledge that open defecation is not just a sanitation issue – it’s a crisis of human dignity and public health. The study by Dr. Fagunwa and Dr. Akinsemolu provides a roadmap for urgent and necessary action to transform sanitation in Africa and ensure a healthier future for all.