By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
Civil Society Organisations, WaterAid Nigeria, ActionAid Nigeria, and Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, Wednesday, drew Federal Government’s attention to water supply, availability, and accessibility to contain the spread of Coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic.
This was stated by the organizations in different telephone interviews with Vanguard over strategies that could prevent the spread of the deadly virus across the country, especially under the lockdown and stay-at-home orders.
The Country Director, WaterAid Nigeria, Evelyn Mere, said that outbreak of the virus was never seen coming by developed or developing nations neither were they prepared for it, which became an emergency.
Mere said: “So countries with weak health system, weak access to social services are going to be most hardest hit and Nigeria is one of them.
“As we all know, the issues in Nigeria are quite horrible. We are talking about 58 percent of homes in Nigeria not having access to handwashing facilities with soap and water, and about 150 million Nigerians, translating to 79 percent, lacking handwashing facilities with soap; 60 million people lack clean water and 110 million lack access to basic sanitation. Then you get to the health care facilities and systems where it is worse. Only five percent of health care facilities in Nigeria have combined basic water, sanitation and hygiene services.
“What Nigeria needs to do now is to immediately go into emergency response mood. The Ghanaian President talked about trucking water to the most vulnerable communities that do not have that is not sustainable.
“But in view of the situation we are in is an emergency that nobody was prepared for especially in Nigeria with our horrible WASH statistics. What we need to do is to start with emergency measures by trucking water, providing hygiene kits.
“We are giving palliatives to households and nobody is talking about water and if actually they can have soap. Soap and handwashing water is the first line defence. For the first time you have a pandemic that you have the power in your hand to defeat.
“So soap, water, free emergency distribution to the most vulnerable communities that don’t have would be the first line action now, while you look into in the mid-term continue direct as much resources to the WASH sector.
“The National Action Plan which is on the revitalization of the WASH sector in which government has prioritized provision of water, sanitation and hygiene to enable Nigeria realize Goal 6 and then end Open Defecation by 2025.
“So immediately, an emergency response in emergency mood you are not looking at what is sustainable you are looking at saving lives and that is what should happen now.”
The Country Director, ActionAid Nigeria, Ene Obi, said government should see how Nigerians access w
ater during this period of lockdown, to reduce rapid spread of the virus.
“Water supplies to communities should be encouraged in the short term while the govt should make provision of basic amenities should be prioritized” Obi stated.
Also the Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, pointed out that the Presidential Taskforce of COVID-19 left out the Minister of Water Resources who supposed to be key in the fight against spread of the virus as far as water, sanitation and hygiene are concerned.
“Like CISLAC observed when this presidential committee was set up there were many missing links for a national committee to effectively and transparently respond or intervene on the ongoing Coronavirus crisis in Nigeria.
“For example the non-inclusion of Minister of Water Resources in the committee to ensure regular, clean and safe water is a huge gap that must urgently be closed. This is because to defeat Coronavirus we need to have clean and regular water. So far the campaign and fight against the virus is yet to capture the issue of water.
“Ideally even if the Ministry of Water Resources is not involved they should on their own carry out some basic public education but because most of government agencies are not proactive there is no effort so far to lead on this campaign knowing that Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, WASH, is one of the most important aspects to stay safe and defeat Coronavirus both at states and national levels you don’t see this agency on this fight against Coronavirus”, Rafsanjani said.