World Toilet Day 2016: Nigeria’s sanitation crisis

Our new report, 'Overflowing Cities', shows Nigeria to be the worst country in Africa for urban sanitation access. Find out how we're calling for change.


18 Nov 2016

Although Nigeria is one of Sub-Saharan Africa’s largest economies, the country is failing when it comes to progress on delivering sanitation to its citizens. It is the third most regressive country in the world on sanitation and only one of a handful of countries around the world where access to basic sanitation is falling rather than rising. The percentage of Nigeria’s population without access to safe, private toilets is currently at a staggering 71% (that is over 130 million people) with 25% (over 46 million) practicing open defecation.

Around 45,000 children under the age of five in Nigeria die every year from diseases caused by the nation’s poor levels of access to water, sanitation and hygiene. Nigeria is the most significant contributor to Sub-Saharan Africa’s ranking as the lowest in the world for access to improved drinking water and sanitation. This ranking is in turn linked to the region’s under-five mortality rate which is one of the highest in the world.

In this year’s State of the Worlds Toilets 2016 report, Overflowing Cities, WaterAid looks at urban sanitation access and some of the world’s worst countries for urban sanitation.

Overflowing Cities

In this year’s State of the World’s Toilets 2016 report, ‘Overflowing Cities’, WaterAid looks at urban sanitation access, some of the world’s worst countries for urban sanitation and some of the jobs that are created when the challenge is addressed head-on.

Sanitation is essential to the health, wealth and well-being of any city. Nigeria has a huge population and extremely rapid rural–urban migration. Economic development and urban planning have not kept pace with the sheer volumes of people arriving – and being born – every day in its towns and cities.

The size, density and poverty of the urban population in Nigeria, combined with chronic governmental failure to provide sanitation services to slums, forces over 13 million of these urban dwellers to find anywhere they can to relieve themselves.

As far as urban sanitation access goes, it is a case of one step forward, two steps back for Nigeria. For every one urban dweller reached with sanitation since 2000, two people were added to the number living without. A general lack of awareness among people about the benefits of sanitation, and government neglect of slums, makes a bad situation even worse.

The report in numbers

According to the report, Nigeria is the worst country in Africa and the third worst globally for urban sanitation with more than 58 million urban dwellers (67.2% of the population) living without access to a safe, private toilet. The report, launched on World Toilet Day 2016, highlights that:

  • Nigeria is third, after India and China, on a list of top 10 countries with the most urban-dwellers without safe, private toilets (by numbers).
  • Nigeria is ranked third on a list of countries with the most number of urban-dwellers practising open defecation and tenth on a list of countries with the most percentage of urban-dwellers practising open defecation.
  • Nigeria is ranked number one in the list of countries falling furthest behind in reaching people with sanitation in urban areas.
  • Between 2000 and 2015, there has been a significant increase in the number of urbanites without improved sanitation, (nearly 31.5 million people).

All of this takes a heavy toll on Nigeria’s people. A lack of access to sanitation affects livelihoods, health, education, gender equality, nutrition, the environment and the economy. It increases poverty, enlarges wealth disparities and increases the risk of disease and danger, especially for women and children.

Read the full report >

Modinatu Sofola, 37, is married with 5 children and she sells food for a living in the community where she has lived for the past 19 years.

Modinatu Sofola sells food for a living in the community where she has lived for the past 19 years. "The biggest challenge we’re facing is the lack of a good working toilet system in the community, no bathrooms and potable water, and we have to go a long distance to buy water," she says.

What we must do

Currently, the total number of new people gaining access to sanitation in Nigeria is 0.7 million. However, a massive 14 million people extra per year must gain access in order to reach the 2030 target of everyone, everywhere. To turn the sanitation crisis in Nigeria around will take political commitment and financing from the very top. Nigeria needs to measure up to its status as Africa’s giant and finance its infrastructure accordingly. With only 14 years to achieve the UN goals, there’s no time to waste. The Government must address sector blockages and build strong political will and collaborations between public and private sectors, as well as the wider society to achieve increased access to WASH for everyone, everywhere.

To ensure that everyone, everywhere has access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), WaterAid is calling for:

  • Our leaders to fund, implement and account for progress towards the new UN Global Goals on sustainable development and particularly Goal 6 – to ensure water, sanitation and hygiene for all.
  • An improvement in access to basic sanitation with political prioritisation and long-term increases in financing for water, sanitation and hygiene, by Government at all levels.
  • The Nigerian Government to ensure that schools, healthcare facilities and birthing centres have safe toilets, clean running water and functional handwashing facilities, to reduce maternal, newborn and child deaths and strengthen children’s ability to attend school.
  • WASH to be positioned as a crucial contributor to health and for policy makers and health sector stakeholders to become aware of the link and crucial role that sanitation plays in improving child survival rates and health outcomes.
  • The inclusion of water, sanitation and hygiene into health plans, policies and programming and especially in plans to address under-nutrition and acute malnutrition.
  • Aid to be directed to where it’s most needed and the mobilising of domestic revenue to make water, sanitation and hygiene a priority.
  • Coordination and collaboration of all relevant stakeholders and actors including donors, NGOs, the private sector, informal service providers and citizens resulting in a harmonised effort towards reaching everyone, everywhere and leaving no one behind.
  • Attitudinal and behavioural change on water, sanitation and hygiene issues such as handwashing and open defecation.

Find out more about the effect a lack of sanitation has on health, education, hunger and more by downloading this year’s report.