Access to clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene are still a huge challenge to many Nigerians and, according to environmental health activists, poor access to these basic needs of man have grave implications to communities, especially those that are hard-to-reach.
Many communities in Nigeria are hard-to-reach for reasons of being riverine or uphill and people in such communities account for a significant percentage of the country’s total population. Therefore, for people in these communities, poor access to clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene means lost education, lost opportunities and hundreds of lost lives each year.
Available statistics paints a scary picture of Nigeria in relation to access to water, decent toilets and good hygiene. The statistics estimates that 67 percent of the Nigerian population does not have basic sanitation; 26 percent practices open defecation; 33 percent is without clean water while 87 percent does not have basic hygiene facilities.
“Sub-Saharan Africa ranks lowest in the world for access to improved drinking water and sanitation. This is linked to the region’s under-five mortality rate which is one of the highest in the world”, notes WaterAid, international not-for-profit organization working to make clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene normal for everyone, everywhere within a generation.
The organization, which works in 34 countries to change the lives of the poorest and most marginalised people, notes further that around 60,000 children under the age of five in Nigeria die from diseases caused by the nation’s poor levels of access to water, sanitation and hygiene.
The organization, in a statement obtained by BusinessDay in Lagos, advised that, in order to ensure improved access, human right to water must take priority ahead of other competing demands otherwise the un-served populations might be left behind in the race to get clean water to everyone, everywhere by 2030.
Unsustainable production of products for export, combined with consumers’ increasing desire for water-intensive products, may leave poor communities struggling to access clean water which is why ChiChi Aniagolu-Okoye, Country Director, WaterAid Nigeria, warns that “while exports of food and goods are important sources of income, production must be made sustainable, and industrial and agricultural use of water should not be prioritised over people’s ability to get water for their basic needs”.
The country director pointed out that some 844 million people around the world were denied access to clean water simply “because of who they are, how much money they have, or where they live; in Nigeria, nearly 60 million people do not have clean water close to their homes”.
Continuing, she said, lacking access to this basic need means people are deprived of an equal chance to be healthy, educated, improved livelihoods and be financially secure. Women, girls, people living with disabilities and other vulnerable groups are especially at a higher risk of bearing the brunt of a lack of access to water, sanitation and hygien”.
She disclosed that to keep advocating and contributing to delivering fair, inclusive and effective access to water across Nigeria, WaterAid and the Foundation for Partnership Initiatives (PIND) in the Niger Delta hosted stakeholders from the government and private sector as well as development partners and civil society organisations to a roundtable on sustainable access to and management of inclusive safe water sources.
She assured that lessons learned as well as shared experiences and best practices drawn from water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) interventions across key stakeholders will form concrete recommendations into ongoing consultations around the recently launched National WASH Action Plan.