In November 2018, Nigeria declared that its water supply, sanitation and hygiene sector was in crisis. This was partly prompted by the fact that the country has struggled to make progress towards ending open defecation. Almost one in four Nigerians – around 50 million people – defecates in open areas. They do so because access to proper sanitation, like private indoor toilets or outdoor communal toilets, has not improved in recent years.
In fact, it’s got worse: in 2000, 36.5% of Nigerians had access to sanitation facilities that hygienically separate human excreta from human contact. By 2015 the figure had dropped to 32.6%, likely driven by rapid population growth and a lack of sufficient private and public investment. Open defecation comes with many risks. It can lead to waterborne diseases, cause preventable deaths, and hamper education and economic growth. It also infringes on people’s privacy and dignity.