The first entirely open defecation free Local Government Area is declared in Nigeria

The international development charity United Purpose and the Nigerian Government’s National Task Group on Sanitation, today (15th December) announced that the Local Government Area (LGA) of Obanliku is now fully open-defecation free – the first declaration of its kind in Nigeria.

This is a huge achievement; in 2015 Nigeria was highlighted as the 3rd worst country in terms of access to sanitation – 71% of the population do not have access to toilets. Nigeria also has the highest rate of under-5 deaths caused by diarrhoea – 11 children in every 1,000 die of diarrhoeal illnesses each year in Nigeria. Diarrhoea is one of the three most common killers of young children globally yet 58% of these deaths could be prevented through access to clean water and sanitation. The removal of open defecation has wider implications too - it improves the education and safety of girls and women. In many schools there is a lack of toilet facilities for girls. This means, particularly when they reach puberty, girls often stop attending because they have nowhere to go to the toilet. There is also the darker side to this with reports of rape and attacks of women and girls venturing out into the bushes to go to the toilet. Often they go after dark for privacy – which leaves them vulnerable to attacks.

United Purpose has achieved this landmark breakthrough due to the use of community-led total sanitation.

Kathryn Llewellyn, Global CEO of United Purpose, comments:

“Open defecation remains a huge obstacle for people living in poverty and is responsible for thousands of unnecessary deaths. Eradicating it is crucial to achieving Global Goal number 6 on sanitation. But despite many efforts, eradicating it has proved difficult.

We’re hugely proud that our partnership with the Nigerian government, at a local and national level, has achieved this unique breakthrough. The essence of this success is our complete focus on engaging communities. We now want to work even harder to spread this success through partnership and innovative community engagement.”

United Purpose focuses on the behavioural change needed to ensure real and sustainable improvements. This is different to traditional development. It includes:

  • Investing in behavior change as well as infrastructure – which is more expensive and takes more time but it ultimately more successful.
  • Using a learner-centered approach, empowering the learner to problem solve. Community members actively take part in discussions about sanitation and hygiene behaviour. The meetings provoke discussion and bring out real-life experiences that cannot be brought out using traditional training methods. Images and illustrations facilitate this - making the information more accessible to all, including people who are illiterate. This practice is not widely adopted.
  • Using the ethos of ‘community problem, community solution’. Together, the community supports one another to eradicate open defecation in a way that works for them.
  • While applying established methods that have proven their worth, United Purpose does not hesitate to challenge conventional methodologies. United Purpose pioneers innovative technologies in sanitation and water integration, promoting active learning and knowledge sharing, and engaging in ground-breaking research as part of their disruptive innovation agenda.
  • United Purpose uses evidence-based advocacy and lobbing of government and other key stakeholders to secure more resources for this work. In Nigeria this has been particularly successful – resulting in the Nigerian Government shaping their budgets to incorporate United Purpose’s work on water and sanitation.

This community-led total sanitation approach and the Nigerian Government’s new prioritising of sanitation, is why United Purpose has achieved something previously thought unachievable.