March 28, 2023

NIGERIA: Access to safe water still moving target 

<strong>NIGERIA: Access to safe water still moving target </strong>

• As only 10% of population has access to basic WASH

By Chioma Obinna

Water is not only about health, sanitation, hygiene and disease-prevention but about sustainable development, fighting poverty, supporting food systems and creating jobs and prosperity. According to the General Secretary of the United Nations, Mr. Antonio Guterres, water is about human rights and gender equality. But can this statement be true in Nigeria where access to quality, reliable and sustainable water remains poor.  Chioma Obinna writes

YOU could feel the pain in the air, see the angry looking faces and hear their hearts beat as these innocent Nigerian children race home with buckets of water on their heads.
With both hands clinging to the buckets, Esther Eluchie, 14-year –old secondary school girl said: “This early morning ritual is becoming unbearable for me.  Every morning, I must fetch water before I go to school.”  
Esther said since the school started she has not attended the morning assembly because she is always late. No thanks to the fact that she has to fetch water every day ffar way from her home. Like Esther, many Nigerian children and women bear the brunt of water shortage.
In most communities in Nigeria, it takes about 25 minutes to get to the river and this has continued to affect school attendance of  the children.
Sadly, despite the improvement in the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, WASH, sector in Nigeria, access to quality and sustainable water has remained low.
Esther and other Nigerian children are at risk of cholera and other water borne diseases as a latest report by the World Health Organisation, WHO, revealed an outbreak of cholera in 22 countries with one billion people in 43 countries at risk, and the upsurge countries where water and sanitation infrastructure is fragile, especially in countries within Africa.
They are also among the 78 million Nigerian children at the highest risk for a convergence of three water-related threats of inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene related diseases; and climate hazards. according to the new United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, report.
Today, with only seven years to deliver on Sustainable Development Goal 6- clean water and sanitation for all, only 10 per cent of Nigerians have access to basic WASH, 67 per cent use basic drinking water services and per capita volume of water available to the rural population daily is 10 Liters, 40 liters less than the UN acceptable standards.
For instance, Nigeria failed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, MDGs, for water and sanitation in 2015 as only 61 per cent of citizens had access to improved water.
According to the 2021 National Outcome Routine Mapping of Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Service Levels (WASH-NORM) report, 23 per cent of Nigerians do not have access to basic water supply services and only 10 per cent of the population have access to basic water, sanitation and hygiene services combined.
Also, the 2021, Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, MICS, showed that 7 out of every 10 Nigerians (72 per cent) have access to improved drinking water sources, up from 64 per cent in 2016.
The Nigeria government declared a state of emergency in the country’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector.
Among other challenges found in 2019 were a combination of inadequate infrastructure, a lack of required human capital, poor investment, and a deficient enabling regulatory environment which meant that approximately 60 million Nigerians were living without access to basic drinking water.
The report then showed that 2019 WASH-NORM, also revealed that the average amount of water each person receives in Nigeria was 9 litres per day while national standards stipulates minimum acceptable range of 12 and 16 litres per day.
However, while the world is moving to universal access to water and sanitation, stakeholders are calling for policies and investments in the WASH sector in order to achieve the SDG 6 by 2030.
In a new report to mark this year’s World water day, WaterAid, Nigeria noted that WASH services are vital for everyone.
The report, tagged: “Ending the water, sanitation and hygiene crisis together: policy priorities for accelerating progress” sets out a series of recommendations to countries working to accelerate progress towards sustainable and safe WASH services for all.
The report noted that in Nigeria, basic drinking water coverage rose from 43 per cent in 2000 to 73 per cent in 2020, but progress is still unacceptably slow as the next decade will see a continued rise in population and rural-urban migration.
“Climate change, political instability, disease outbreaks and economic downturns pose additional threats to health, water security, food security, the economy, gender equality and social development.
“Ensuring sustainable and safe WASH will become even more critical to build people’s resilience.”
In the views of the Country Director, WaterAid Nigeria, Evelyn Mere, the government should make WASH a top national priority, champion an inspirational vision and drive institutional reform that has results at all levels.
“Substantially increase WASH financing, ensuring cost finance strategies are developed, backed by sufficient public funds to build a high-performing sector that attracts finance and improves the quality of spending.”
Mere stressed that no one deserves to be denied their rights to clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene.
“We have less than a decade to achieve the 2030 target for SDG 6- clean water and sanitation for all.
“Sadly, progress to achieve SDG6 is too slow, but there are ways to accelerate change by implementing the right WASH policies in government and investing in WASH.
“A situation where only 10 per cent of Nigerians have access to basic WASH, 67 per cent use basic drinking water services and per capita volume of water available to our rural population daily is 10 litres, 40 litres less than the UN accepted standard, is unacceptable and require urgent action to accelerate change.”
She said it was time to put in place policies to get back on track and accelerate progress towards universal access by 2030.
The Director, Water Resources, Office of Drainage Services and Water Resources, Lagos, Engr. Mrs. Omolanke Taiwo said Nigeria should speed up efforts towards achieving sustainable water management practices.
Taiwo said to accelerate change and secure progress on WASH, there was a need to invest in infrastructure and technologies that improve access to clean water, reducing water waste while promoting water conservation and efficiency.
Taiwo who spoke in Lagos pointed out the needs for women, girls, the vulnerable and marginalised communities be taken into consideration in order to deliver access to clean water and safe sanitation. In the views of UNICEF Nigeria Chief of WASH, Dr Jane Bevan, there is need for urgent action to address the water crisis in Nigeria.
Bevan noted that in Nigeria, one-third of children do not have access to at least basic water at home, and two-thirds do not have basic sanitation services.
“Hand hygiene is also limited, with three-quarters of children unable to wash their hands due to lack of water and soap at home.  As a result, Nigeria is one of the 10 countries that carry the heaviest burden of child deaths from diseases caused by inadequate WASH, such as diarrhoea diseases.
“Nigeria also ranks second out of 163 countries globally with the highest risk of exposure to climate and environmental threats. Groundwater levels are also dropping, requiring some communities to dig wells twice as deep as just a decade ago.”  
“I believe we need to rapidly scale up investment in the sector, including from global climate financing, strengthen climate resilience in the WASH sector and communities, increase effective and accountable systems, coordination, and capacities to provide water and sanitation services, and implement the UN-Water SDG6 Global Acceleration Framework.
“If we continue at the current pace, it will take 16 years to achieve access to safe water for all in Nigeria. We cannot wait that long, and the time to move quickly is now.
Bevan said investing in climate-resilient water, sanitation, and hygiene services is not only a matter of protecting children’s health today but also ensuring a sustainable future for generations to come.