An enviromentalist, Dr Kelechi Okezie says that no fewer than 1.6 million people are still practising open defecation in Ebonyi.
Okezie, who is the Executive Director of Neighbourhood Environment Watch Foundation (NEWF), a pro-environmental non government organisation (NGO) disclosed this in an interview with our correspondent on Wednesday in Abakaliki.
Okezie, also the National Secretary, Society for Water and Sanitation in Nigeria (NEWSAN), said that the figure represented 54 per cent of population without access to good toilet (water system) facilities.
According to Okezie, the statistics is contained in the Sanitation and water access factsheet of Ebonyi as released by the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the United Nations International Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF).
The reports listed Ebonyi as toping the ladder in states with worst case of open defecation in South Eastern states with close to 60 per cent, adding that only about 11 per cent of the population has access to basic sanitation.
He added that only about 5 per cent of the population has hand washing facilities on their premises with soap and running water.
According to him, the poor and worrisome statistics of the sanitation profile of the state negates the urban renewal and transformation strides of the state governor, Chief Dave Umahi.
The executive director noted that the worrisome sanitation of the state spelt doom for the state.
He added that the sad development would hinder chances of the state achieving the millenium social development goal (SDG) programme of ending open defecation by 2025.
He said that to change the ugly narrative in Ebonyi that there was need for a radical qpproach and turn around by state government and other critical stakeholders.
He said: “There is need for radical approach and turn around by the state government and the people in this regard.
“The people need behavioural change and the state government should enforce strict penalties against persons who go to the bush to defecate and to sanction homes without adequate latrines and wash hand stations.
“We must realise that a gram of shit contains over 10 million viruses, bacteria and parasites which affects the health and well being of the citizens.
“We should recall the several spells of cholera in the state all resulting from contamination of water and food from faeces exposed to flies and rain.
“The government should seek ways to work with UNICEF and Civil Society Organisations working on water, sanitation and hygiene such as NEWSAN and other key stakeholders to change this trend.”
Okezie charged the inter-ministrial committee recently set up by the state government to work hard to address the narrative of poor sanitation as well as strive to end open defecation in the state.
“The state government recently declared emergency in the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector and set up the inter-ministerial committee to drive safe water and sanitation in the state.
“The Committee needs to be active and working if the state is to end open defecation by 2025, ” he added.