The United Nations Children Fund has appealed to journalists in Nigeria to raise awareness on sanitation, particularly the benefit of using toilets.
Speaking at a Media Dialogue in Kano on Sanitation and Hygiene, UNICEF Communication Specialist, Dr. Geoffrey Njoku, urged the media to step up reportage of issues around sanitation and to sensitize the people on the need to shun open defecation.
The media dialogue, with the theme: “Clean Nigeria: Use the Toilet,” was organised by Child Rights Information Bureau, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture in collaboration with UNICEF, the European Union and the Department for International Development.
Njoku urged the participants to see themselves as ambassadors of sanitation and deploy their tools to educate people on the need to stop defecating in open places to prevent spread of diseases.
He said a deliberate campaign using hashtag: #Endopendefecation #cleannigeria, has been set up to sensitize people on the danger of open defecation and benefits of using toilets.
He said: “This media dialogue was aimed at equipping journalists with facts and figures and other relevant information on the sanitation situation in Nigeria, especially the use of toilets.
“It is also to co-opt the media, bloggers, social media influencers to join the clean Nigeria campaign media advocacy for improved sanitation and ending open defecation.
“We want journalists to understand the link between sanitation, open defecation and child survival so that they can generate human interest stories for publication.”
Njoku urged journalists to do in-depth, incisive and analytical feature stories that would prompt Nigerians to stop open defecation.
He said: “We want the participants to become Open defecation Free ambassadors and take ODF/Sanitation as very important matter increase.
“We want them to exhibit thorough investigative journalism on the Clean Nigeria campaign.”
The UNICEF Chief of Katsina Field Office, Paul Mudzougo, who was represented by Niyi Oyedokun, also charged journalists to enlighten members of the public on the need to stop open defecation in Nigeria.
UNICEF Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Specialist, Bisi Ogunjobi, said 47 million Nigerians are still practising open defecation.
Ogunjobi said the situation must be addressed so that government would stop using resources meant for development of infrastructure on payment of medical bills.
The Federal Government also pleaded with Nigerians to cultivate the habit of using toilets and desist from practising open defecations.
In his remarks, the Deputy Director in the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, who is also the Head, Child Rights Information Bureau, Olumide Osanyinpeju, lauded UNICEF and other donors for the their efforts in curtailing the practice of open defecation in Nigeria.
Osanyinpeju said: “It is a fact that UNICEF has been in the forefront of ensuring that we have access to safe drinking water supply, adequate sanitation and proper hygiene in our environment and communities.
“I therefore commend UNICEF, other groups and individuals for also advancing this cause to make life safe in our communities.”