Mama my stomach, I want to poo. Mama I want to poo”… cried 12-year-old Bayuo as she
woke her mother up. Hold on, shouted her father as he searched for a torchlight to give to the wife to take the girl to the Bush to ease herself. This was about the third or fourth time they had gone through this ordeal and it was just 2:30am. This time, luck was not on their side because before they could get to the main entrance of the large compound they share with other tenants, 12-year-old Bayuo had already eased on herself and the watery stool was all over the place. Her mother who stood with hands on her waist in an akimbo position could not help but hit the poor girl who was already suffering on the head.That involuntary action by the mother sent the girl sprawling to the ground and it looked as if life had left her body…
This is just one of the few challenges people who do not have toilets in their homes go through. Unfortunately, when people are putting up their houses, they often overlook the importance of a toilet. In the past, people were few, buildings were few, there was a lot of vast unused land and bushes all around so
people could go into the bush, do their business and come back home.
We can call it ignorance but what about those university students who carry ablution cans on motorbikes to go into the Bush to attend to nature’s call? One day I was walking on the street when this sleek Toyota Venza car passed by me and stopped about four hundred (400) metres away. I was so excited that I’ll get a lift from a sleek car, you can imagine my excitement when the car door opened, in my head I said the driver is so gentle enough to want to get down and walk to me only to meet my disappointment. He was holding an abulution can! He greeted me and walked into the bush with his can! If people are rich enough to buy cars, why can’t they put up a toilet in their homes or pay to use public toilets. Again, if people have the resources; land, labour, money etc to put up a house, can’t they add a toilet? Who designs the plan of the house?
Who supervises the construction work? Could they not have ensured that toilets are included in the plan? The reasons may not be far-fetched, my grandmother says that you have to do your business in the Bush so that air can blow on you while you’re doing it. Sometimes too she says you can be sure you have actually poopooed when grass sweeps your buttocks in the bush. Open defecation is the human practice of defecating outside in the open environment rather than in a toilet. People may choose fields, bushes, forests, ditches, streets, canals or other open space for defecation. They do so because either they do not have a toilet at home or due to traditional cultural practices. The practice is common where sanitation infrastructure and services are not available. Even if toilets are available, efforts may still be needed to promote the use of toilets.
We’re all contributing to this problem in one way or another. Landowners, policy makers, Environmental Health officers, landlords and landladies, tenants and all of us. But enough of the blame for now, what can we do to curb this problem? How do we correct this? It is sad that we have to go into the bush, or go to the shores of water bodies to attend to nature’s call in many of our communities. Efforts have been made by a lot of stakeholders both local and international to curb this but the result is nothing to write home about. Some of the efforts to curb open defecation include campaigns on the effects of open defecation, radio talk shows, visits to schools to educate students on open defecation, passing laws in communities on open defecation and giving punishment to those who break them, among others. November 19 every year is set aside as world toilet day, all these are efforts to save us from the effects of open defecation. In recent times, government and stakeholders are encouraging people to have toilets in their homes, so
that we can have very few public toilets around. In addition to the campaign to putting up toilets in homes, people are also encouraged to wash their hands with soap and running water.
In as much as we sensitize people about the need to have toilets in their homes and
reduce unhealthy sanitary practices such as open defecation, we should also focus on touching on the feelings and emotions if the people we are preaching (so to speak) to. Let’s give accolades
to those who have toilets in their homes; give them titles of recognition, when important visitors come to the community, let people who have toilet facilities receive them, hang flags on their roofs (May sound ridiculous but trust me, people will want to get recognised) to show everyone that these are the people with toilets in the community. By so doing, we appeal to their emotions and feelings, even though the problem won’t solve fully, it’ll reduce.
Apart from that, officials who give building permit should see to it that people have included toilets in their building plans and also build them when they start building. As necessary as toilets and kitchens are, most people forget about them, we’re more interested in where to lay our heads than where to poo.