How Filled-up Toilets Encourage Open Defecation In Borno IDP Camps

By Zainab Yetunde Adam

It was 10 am, but the sun was already blasting at 32°c in Maiduguri, Borno state, Northeast Nigeria. It takes a 5 minutes to walk across the road to get into Filin Ball IDP Camp, where displaced persons mostly from Jere local government are residing.

But such a brief walk usually leaves one sweating and dehydrated due to the intensity of the heat. It’s normal, at times like this, for people in Maiduguri to avoid the scalding sun by sitting indoors or under some warm shades of trees. 

It was the same situation at the Filin-Ball IDP Camp. The inmates were seen in groups sharing the patches of shades from trees or under some makeshift verandahs. The children, of course, mells that had defiled the near sewere noticed giggling and hopping about, either on errands for their parents or on some personal mischievous missions. The situation would have passed for a perfectly serene environment except for some putrid odor of the habitat. 

One of the toilet gallery serving 1867 IDPs at Filin-Ball Camp, Maiduguri. Photo Credit: Zainab Adam/HumanitarianTimes

It was not difficult to trace the source of the awful smell. The toilets! 

Our reporter noticed that the unpleasant odour often makes the people spit around disgustedly.

At Filin-Ball camp, a majority of the  dwellers were often seen  wearing face masks  even though it is no longer mandatory to adorn them due to the lift of COVID-19 safety protocols in Nigeria. 

It wasn’t a rocket science task to figure out the reason why the inmates of the camp still use face masks – the oozing toilets. 

Filled up toilet in Filin-Ball IDP camp. Photo Credit: Zainab Adam/ Humanitarian Times

The Humanitarian Times would later gather that there are 30 pit toilets in the camp; and of that number, only two are serviceable because the rest   were filled up and most of the households, comprising 1,867 people had to either manage taking long turns to use the yet to be filled two or resort to open defecation. 

 The residents, IDPs said the situation for over a month now.

Yagana Shettima-Kullima is one of the female Volunteer  in the camp  who informed The Humanitarian Times that before the completion of Action Against Hunger’s programme in the area, the organisation supplies them with sanitary items and helps  to evacuate the toilets whenever they are filled up.

“Right now, we use local ingredients such as ashes and kerosene to help them disinfect the toilets and reduce the volume of faeces,” she said. 

Mrs Yagana, holds her facemask to reduce inhalation of the smelling toilet as she speaks to THT. Photo Credit: Zainab Adam/HumanitarianTimes

Action Against Hunger used to pay Mrs Yagana and other women volunteers a sum of N10,000 each as a monthly salary for cleaning the toilets and the surrounding areas. 

Mrs Yagana  worried that: “should the rainy season start now, their broken soak away and filled up toilets  might contaminate the environment and expose them and their children to Cholera and other water-borne diseases, if not evacuated now.” 

Another female WASH volunteer, who also doubled as Woman Leader in Filin-Ball Camp, Ramada Fadhul, said the only way to protect them from dysentery,  diarrhoea and other diseases is just to first evacuate the filled waste.

The 60 years old granny said: “whenever we want to use the filled-up toilet since there is no alternative, we would have to put on a face mask and hurriedly relieve ourselves.”

“Just yesterday, some parts of the toilet sank and you know we are using a water system, so the wastewater gushes out through the hole,” she reiterated.

Ramada Fadhul a woman leader who used to get paid by AAH as WASH Volunteer. Photo Credit: Zainab Adam/ HumanitarianTimes

Many other concerned voices in the camp joined to appeal for the immediate evacuation of the toilets

The IDPs also pleaded that the government should repair destroyed parts of the toilets to prevent environmental pollution.

“We are facing a lot of problems with our toilets, everywhere is filled up;  there is no place to defecate now,” Kolomi Imar, a male IDP and retired civil servant, lamented. 

Abba Kaka, the camp’s chairman, told The Humanitarian Times that the filled up toilets have made some IDPs resort to open defecation.

Abba Kaka, Filin-Ball IDP Camp Chairman, worries about Open Defecation. Photo Credit: Zainab Adam/HumanitarianTimes

“Right now some people relieve themselves on the floor or outside the toilet.”

He said they are helpless because the cost of evacuating the toilets is beyond the IDPs’ capacity. 

Filin Ball IDP camp, is a host community camp located in Old Maiduguri, behind Dalaram Primary Health Care Clinic, Jere Local Government Area in Borno state. The camp has been in existence for over six years, providing temporary housing to 1867 IDPs from Bama, Marte, Gwoza, Monguno, Dikwa and Jere Local Government Area among others.

The Humanitarian Times can report that about 95 percent or more of the toilets and WASH facilities in IDP camps and host communities were constructed the united nations agencies and international NGOs.

As of November 2021, the United Children Fund, (UNICEF) said that to cirtail open defecation it has  constructed a total of 7,728 toilet facilities for various communities in the Northeast Nigeria starting from 2018.

The Fund said it would require at least $5.3 billion, which is equivalent to Nigeria’s N1.9 trillion to eradicate open defecation and other environmental sanitation problems by 2025.

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