A recent study carried out by the Water and Sanitation Programme (WSP) has revealed that Nigeria loses $1billion (about N155 billion) to open defecation yearly.

The study, which had earlier indicated that Nigeria loses $2.93 billion (about N455 billion) annually due to poor sanitation, also showed that 70 million Nigerians use shared latrines, while 32 million defecated in the open.

WSP is a multi-donor partnership administered by the World Bank to support poor people in obtaining affordable, safe and sustainable access to water and sanitation services.

The study, which deals on impacts of poor sanitation in Nigeria, was conducted by WSP team in Africa. According to the team, objectively verified data sources and conservative numbers were used to estimate the economic impacts.

The study showed that the data used for the estimates were largely derived from Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS), Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) and the Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation (JMP).

The prototype review and concept was endorsed by Benson Ajisegiri, a Deputy Director in the Federal Ministry of Water Resources.

“Open defecation costs Nigeria $1billion per year and eliminating the practice would require not less than 6.5 million latrines to be built and used,” a statement from the WSP said, adding that 70 million Nigerians use unsanitary or shared latrines while the poor were 10 times more likely to practice open defecation than the rich.

According to the report, each person practicing open defecation spent almost 2.5 days a year finding a private location to defecate; leading to large economic losses. It said that $243 million (N37.7 billion) was lost each year in access time and the cost fell inappropriately on women as caregivers, who might spend additional time accompanying young children, sick or elderly relatives.

“This cost is likely to be an underestimation as those without toilets, particularly women, will be obliged to find a private location for urination as well; also, $2.5 billion (N387.5 billion) is lost each year due to premature death,” stated the report.

Approximately 121,800 Nigerians, including 87,100 children under five, died each year from diarrhea; nearly 90 per cent of which was directly attributed to poor water, sanitation and hygiene.

The study named poor sanitation as a contributing factor to other leading causes of child mortality, including malaria and measles.”$13 million (N2.1 billion) is lost each year due to productivity losses whilst sick or accessing health care,” the report stated.

“This includes time absent from work or school due to diarrheal disease, seeking treatment from a health clinic or hospital, and time spent caring for under five children suffering from diarrhea or other sanitation-attributable diseases.’’

WSP urged the federal government to channel more resources into sanitation services by targeting investments to the poorest to address their sanitation needs. The study also identified equity and uptake as particular bottlenecks along the service delivery pathway in both rural and urban sanitation.

“What needs to be done is to allocate higher investments to sanitation,” the report stated. “Current sanitation investment in Nigeria is less than 0.1 per cent GDP which is lower than several estimates for what is required. Increased investments in sanitation and hygiene promotion are required, not only to realise health and welfare benefits of sanitation, but also to avert large economic losses.”

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