UYO – Open defecation, defined as the practice of defecating in open fields, waterways and open trenches without any proper disposal of human excreta is said to be a major factor which exposes the girl child to rape in riverine communities within Akwa Ibom and Cross River States.
A report by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) has it that about 47 million Nigerians are actively practicing open defecation. This figure has ranked Nigeria second among countries practising open defecation globally, next to India.
In terms of geopolitical zone, the North Central part of Nigeria is revealed to have the highest percentage of 53.9 per cent of its population still practising open defecation, while the North East has 21.8 per cent of population also practising open defecation, North West has 10.3 per cent; South East, 22.4 per cent; South South, 17.9 per cent; and South West, 28.0 per cent.
At a Two-Day Media Dialogue in Calabar, Cross River State, on the theme “Clean Nigeria: Use the Toilet” aimed at creating awareness to end the habit by 2025, Dr Geoffrey Njoku, Communication Specialist, UNICEF disclosed findings from the 2018 Water sanitation and Hygiene National Outcome Routine Mapping survey which revealed that 24 percent of the population, practice open defecation.
Findings from studies have also revealed health impacts, increased risk of sexual exploitation, and threat to women’s privacy and dignity and Psychosocial stressors linked to open defecation.
The findings of the review identified that open defecation promotes poor health in women with long-term negative effects on their psychosocial well-being.
According to Bioye Ogunjobi, a WASH Specialist, one in every four Nigerians defecate in the open and 35 million Nigerians practise unimproved sanitation, while 30 million practice limited sanitation.
“There is also a total of 43 million people who practise basic sanitation and 37 million prastice safe managed sanitation.”
The WASH specialist also said that UNICEF was working hard towards making Nigeria Open Defecation Free and urged the media to redouble the effort toward raising awareness on hygiene.
The field trip embarked upon by stakeholders and media during the meeting at Old Obutong Community of Cross River State, revealed yet another threat posed by open defecation in the area as to rape and sexual molestation of the girl child.
A fish seller, Mrs Rosemary Abang revealed that open defecation has exposed many of their female children of all ages to rape and all other forms of sexual harrassment.
Being a riverine community, Abang said it is difficult to sink a pit toilet in the entire area as any pit dug beneath two feet would empty into the waters. The environmental situation, according to her, has exposed the older women to poor privacy situation and the girl child to rape.
“Imagine an old woman like me having to expose myself in the open to defecate; when we hear or see men coming we have to look for a way to cover ourselves. For our girl-child, the story is different, they have become helpless victims of rape and all forms of sexual harassment.
Though Abang and others around her claimed ignorance of the health consequences of open defecation, she however admitted to experiencing frequent cases of diarrhea and dysentery among children under five and therefore pledged to support whatever may be intended to curb the menace of open defecation.
A visit to two riverine communities and fishing settlements; Akata and Atabrikang communities in Ibeno Local Government Areas of Akwa Ibom State revealed that one in every four teenage girls in the community is pregnant, mostly attributed to open defecation.
Mrs. Arit Enyinna whose two of her three teenage girls were met pregnant said apart from being raped by fishermen who met the girls in the open at early hours while defecating, most girls in the area, got exposed too early in life to fishermen who met them alone during open defecation.
“It is not easy for parents to always accompany their girl child who is above the age of 10 to pooh by the river in the morning, sometimes you may be quite tire to do so, so this brings them in constant contact with fishermen on their way back from fishing. While some would out rightly rape them there, others see such as an opportunity to lure them to bed. It’s difficult managing a girl child here and sending to out to our relations is not also a very good option”. She said
A 14 year old Patricia Akpan who confessed to have been a victim last year said she has now resorted to defecating in condemned custard bucket, to empty such into the river by daylight to avoid rape or other kinds of sexual abuses.
Though the rapists are well known members of the communities, parents of victims claimed their decision to keep such information private was to avoid exposing their children to public ridicule and to avoid creating ‘undue’ tension in the neighbourhood.
The post As Mothers, Others In A’Ibom, CRS Link Girl-Child Rape To Open Defecation appeared first on Independent Newspapers Nigeria.
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