Open defecation is one of the causes of ill health, outbreak of diseases and even deaths. About 246 communities in the Niger Delta region blessed are now basking in the euphoria of open defecation- free status, clean and hygienic environments. In this piece, Joyce Remi- Babayeju looks at how 146 communities in the Niger Delta region are enjoying the health benefits of tippy tap.

The 2017 World Toilet Day, WTD, was commemorated with a difference in Nigeria because some communities particularly the Niger Delta region of the country have now  attained the World Health Organization’s, WHO, Open Defecation- Free, ODF, status through the UNICEF, EU WASH Project in Nigeria.

UNICEF, EU in collaboration with the Akwa Ibom State government has provided clean water for sanitation and hygiene for rural communities in the state.

The Permanent Secretary, Water Resources of Akwa Ibom State, Otuekong Nse Edem said that the state government is doing well to provide clean and portable water for the people, particularly with the government’s Water Policy to provide water in the rural communities of the state.

According to UNICEF data, 46 million Nigerians practice open defecation but 143 out of 508 communities in the Niger Delta region have attained open defecation- free status and 122 communities are currently practicing open defecation free.  Additional 146,364 people have gained access to improved latrine through construction of self sponsored latrines and tippy tap facilities for improved sanitation.

The United Nations Children Fund, UNICEF and the European Union, EU, through the  Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, WASH project in the five states in the  Niger Delta region namely, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo and Rivers  have built local latrines in some villages with tippy taps to increase the hygiene and sanitation status of the people.

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The Tippy Tap is a simple device for hand washing with running water after using latrine. The tippy tap is constructed using a 5 litre plastic container with a small hole near the cap. It is filled with water and tipped with a stick and rope tied trough a hole in the cap and only the soap is touched with the hands and washed. The device is very hygienic and convenient to use because it promotes hand washing culture among the villagers.

WASH Specialists say that Hand washing with soap can reduce the incidence of diarrhoeal disease and acute respiratory infections in children by 50%.

 Bacteria from faecal matter are a big contributor to the spread of disease and hand washing with soap breaks the chain of contamination. Critical times for hand washing with soap are before preparing or eating food, after changing or cleaning a child, and after defecation.

Even where there is no power or running water, a tippy tap allows for improved health by providing an inexpensive, effective hand washing station.

 According to a UNICEF wash Specialist, Martha Hokonya,at a media dialogue on WASH in UYO,  open defecation is not associated with the poor, everybody does it.

In Nigerian 46 million people practice open defecation out of which 33 million live in rural areas. 130 million use an unimproved sanitation facility, more than half live in rural areas.

45,000 children under five die annually from water borne diseases due to poor access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene.

Also UNICEF WASH Specialist Mustapha Niang said that 46 million Nigerians do open defecation and to reach the sustainable development Goals, SDG target said Nigeria needs to reach 12.5 million people living with open defecation but that Nigeria needs to do more efforts to reach target of 100 percent open defecation by 2025.

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Open defecation contributes to increased health challenges.

To achieve the SGD- 6 goal in the Niger Delta communities with the assistance of UNICEF /  EU water project 3.3 million people between 1990 and 2013 gained access to water per year and 10 million people are required per year to achieve SDG for basic water.

The Village Head of Nsit Atai in Ikot Esop community and WASHCOM Leader, Ediyanga Bassey Ukpong who was obviously happy about his community’s open defecation – free status said that there was outbreak of diseases like diarrhea, malaria, typhoid and water used to give his people problem because they used to go miles to the river to fetch water.

‘’ Our neighbouring communities don’t have water so they come to our village to get water. If someone has a gallon of water he is rich.

WASHCOM came to teach us about hand washing and it helps to keep us clean. We are very happy.’’

He said, “The tippy tap is an improvised hand washing device that comes in handy once we finish using our local latrine. After using the toilet, we don’t have to go into the house, but just move to where it is set up, use our legs to press the tap and water starts running. There’s also soap by the side.

According to him, “The tippy tap is made using a small four-litre gallon, rope and nail. The nail is used to open a small hole that the water will be gushing out when pressed. Now all households here have it, and we have seen a lot of improvement in our health. We started since July 29, 2014, with a water bottle type, but now it’s been replaced with a bigger gallon.”

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Also the Chairman Village Council of Ikot Esop community, Catechist Udoh Ukpong thanked the EU, UNICEF for bringing water and tippy tap projects to their community.

He said, ‘’ before now we used to go to the streams trekking through bad roads to fetch water. We used to experience scarcity of water but now it it accessible to all and we are practising personal hygiene which WASHCOM has come to teach us.

 According to UNICEF statistics on Sanitation & Hygiene condition in Nigeria, the country is not doing badly demand as 61% of the ODF certified communities maintain their ODF status beyond one year.

90 Sanitation Entrepreneurs involved in Toilet Business Owners, TBOs, have been identified, trained and are now providing improved sanitation services to communities and households

The Federal Ministry of Water Resources and the Central Bank of Nigeria have signed Memorandum of Understandings, MoUs, with 42 micro finance institutions to provide soft interest loans to households to support sanitation facilities upgrade

60 WASHCOM commonly called “Adashes” are formed in three Local Government Areas across 3 states and provide revolving loan for sanitation for members of communities.

The UNICEF data shows that through the joint UNICEF, EU WASH/ Tippy tap project a total of 508 communities have been triggered to date through Community Led Total Sanitation Approaches, CLTS.

143 communities out of 508, have attained Open Defecation Free status so far (28%), and 122 communities are currently claiming ODF through current verification.

Additional 146,364 people have gained access to improved latrines through construction of self sponsored latrines.

UNICEF Communication Specialist, Mr Geoffrey Njoku at the Media Dialogue in Uyo urged people to prioritise good hygiene using available portable water as a means for their wellbeing.