Sicknesses Contacted By Drinking Water With Human Faeces
Drinking water that contains human faeces has been identified as a leading cause of typhoid, cholera, hepatitis, polio, worm infestation, and impaired cognitive function.
Research has shown that one gram of human faeces contains more than 10 million viruses, one million bacteria, 1,000 parasite cysts and 100 parasite eggs. This often causes high level of contamination of the environment.
Studies have confirmed that when part of this is ingested, it can cause several deadly diseases.
Investigation reveals that human faeces get in contact with drinking water due to open defecation practiced in many developing countries, including Nigeria.
According to UNICEF, 63 million Nigerians lack access to improved water supply, while113 million cannot access improved sanitation defecate in the open.
Similarly, a 2012 joint report of United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organisation(WHO) estimated that 34 million Nigerians practice open defecation.
This has put the country among top five countries in the world with largest number of people defecating in the open.
Outbreaks of various communicable diseases in the country have been linked to compromised water quality, poor sanitation and hygiene, direct consequences of open defecation.
The practice entails defecating outside, in public and around any community, as a result of ingrained cultural patterns or no access to toilets, latrines or any kind of improved sanitation.
It currently affects one billion people in the developing world that is 15 per cent of the global population. It is a practice widely considered to be at the heart of issues around sanitation worldwide.
When people defecate in the open, flies will feed on the excreta and then carry small amounts of the excreta away on their bodies and feet. When they touch food, the excreta and germs in the excreta are passed onto the food, which may later be eaten by another person.
Some germs can grow on food and in a few hours their numbers can increase very quickly. Where there are germs there is always a risk of disease.
Diarrhoea, the highest killer of under-five is responsible for 18 per cent of the deaths of children, that’s about 194,000 every year (22 deaths per hour). This is in addition to another 240,000 killed by respiratory infections within one year, UNICEF worried.
What is clear is that reducing the number of those who defecate in the open will have a large impact on the health of individuals and the communities they live in.
According to UNICEF reports, lack of toilet remains one of the leading causes of illness and death among children.
In its efforts to improve personal sanitation and hygiene, the UN agency for children fund came up with a Community Led Total Sanitation programme to make all communities free of open defecation. The programme focuses on social and behaviour change and use of affordable, appropriate technologies.
It emphasises on sustainable use of sanitation facilities, rather than construction of infrastructure. The approach depends on the engagement of members of the community ranging from individuals to schools and traditional leaders. Communities use their own capacities to attain their objectives, play central role in planning and implementing improved sanitation.
UNICEF Chief of Field, Enugu office, Mr. Charles Nzuki, observed that improved sanitation in communities and at household level will help to halt the spread of diarrhoea, the major killer of under-five children.
Nzuki spoke to Independent in an interview, stressing that majority of poor Nigerians lives in the rural areas with limited infrastructure, thereby making such communities unable to practice hygiene which prevents spread of diseases.
According to him, “diarrhoea can be prevented by avoiding contamination of environment and ensuring that communities are open defecation free.”
Only 31 per cent of Nigerians had access to improved sanitation facilities and only 58.5 per cent had access to clean water in 2011, according to Multiple Indicator Cluster conducted in 2012.
Similarly, Mr. Saaondo Anom, UNICEF, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Specialist, said that lack of safe water and sanitation and hygiene portends dangerous implication on children’s health, for instance, diarrhoea.
He further said that diarrhoea is a major cause of malnutrition and malnutrition is the underlying cause of about 50 per cent of all the deaths of children under-five years.
Unsafe water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene aggravate the occurrence of diseases like pneumonia and polio.
Anom, who addressed journalists at a recent media dialogue in Enugu, also stated that UNICEF is using participatory methods Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) to bring about shame and disgusts when people realize they eat and drink their own shit through harmful practices.
According to him, the CLTS tools facilitate a dialogue around sanitation that ultimately arrives at a situation where the community members themselves decide to change their situation. The community develops their own plan on how to improve their sanitation situation and sets time limits. Community members are able to see who has complied and who has not. This creates a community “by-law” that is self-enforced.
“Not everybody knows that hand washing without soap is as good as not washing your hands,” Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Specialist, UNICEF Enugu, Amose Kudzala, added.
He noted that access to safe water and sanitation decreased morbidity and mortality, increased free/ productive time, increased income generation opportunities, reduced healthcare expenditure, increased school attendance (especially girls) and reduced poverty.
According to him, the richest in sub-saharan Africa are almost five times more likely to use improved sanitation than the poorest. Also, the richest in sub-saharan Africa are over two times more likely to use an improved drinking water source than the poorest, he added.
Meanwhile, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Specialist, Mr. Job Ominyi, said that it is pertinent for people to examine their hygiene behaviours so as to identify the health risks associated with such behaviours.
He said: “Communities should have action plans for changing risky hygiene behaviour.”
According to him, hygiene promotion seeks to maintain the safety of water from source to point of use; ensure safe use of toilet facilities to prevent spread of diseases.
“Hygiene is the practice of keeping oneself and one’s surroundings clean, especially in order to prevent illnesses or the spread of diseases.”
Corroborating earlier views, the WASH Specialist said major diseases associated with in-adequate hygiene include: diarrhea, intestinal worms, schistosomiasis among others.
He added that UNICEF through their WASH programme introduced hygiene code of safe disposal of faeces, including that of children. He said: “Using a toilet or latrine is the best way; proper hand washing at appropriate times with soap and water after using toilet, before touching food and before feeding children; proper storage of water and food; safe disposal of household garbage are ways to ensure hygiene.”
Recent interventions by organizations like UNICEF, CLTS are beginning to show positive signs with steady improvements in the use of toilet facilities worldwide.