• Wednesday, June 12, 2024
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World Water Day 2022: Where are we?

World Water Day 2022: Where are we?

World Water Day emphasises the importance of water and sanitation measures in reducing poverty, enhancing economic growth, and ensuring environmental sustainability. It also emphasises accomplishing Sustainable Development Goal 6: water and sanitation for all by 2030.

Since 1993, World Water Day has been commemorated on March 22 every year to highlight the importance of freshwater.

World Water Day raises the consciousness of the 2.2 billion people who do not have access to safe drinking water. Of which 1.2 billion people lack essential water sources within a round trip of 30 minutes. 282 million people have limited water sources, 368 million people took unprotected water from wells and springs, and 122 million people used untreated surface water from lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams. Also, more than 884 million people did not have safe water to drink.

Thus, World Water Day is observed worldwide to raise public awareness of the importance of water in all aspects of life, such as the environment, health, agriculture, and trade, and to take steps to address the world’s water crisis.

This year’s World Water Day focuses on groundwater, emphasising the role of water and sanitation systems.

Globally, groundwater supplies over half of all drinking water. It provides around 40 percent of water for irrigated agriculture and about one-third of the water needed for industry. It protects ecosystems, keeps rivers flowing at normal levels, and prevents land subsidence and ocean intrusion.

Despite huge supplies of surface and groundwater, several countries have had prolonged water shortages due to a lack of water management and distribution infrastructure and highly erratic rainfall patterns.

The Asia-Pacific area has the world’s lowest per capita water availability, with groundwater demand expected to rise 30 percent by 2050.

In North America and Europe, nitrates and pesticides pose a significant danger to groundwater quality, with 20 percent of EU groundwater bodies exceeding EU requirements for clean water quality due to agricultural pollution.

In Nigeria, years of poor maintenance have harmed Nigeria’s water infrastructure.

Statistics show that over 57 million Nigerians do not have access to good water supplies, and more than 130 million do not have proper sanitation. Although over 70 percent of Nigerians have access to essential water services, more than half of these sources are contaminated. And, even though 73 percent of the country’s population has access to a water source, the average Nigerian only has access to nine litres of water each day, which is below the standard requirement.

In effect, individuals are exposed to preventable health risks due to a lack of insufficient or poorly managed water and sanitation facilities.

Diseases like cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid, polio, acute respiratory infections, and neglected tropical diseases have been linked to contaminated water and poor sanitation.

According to the World Health Organization, diarrhoeal diseases account for over 178,000 deaths or 9.21 percent of total deaths in 2018 in Nigeria.

Worldwide, there are 1.7 billion cases of diarrhoea annually in children under the age of five. Diarrhoea kills 446,000 children under five every year, mainly in developing nations. This accounts for 9 percent of the 5.8 million deaths of children under five. Also, 77 percent of diarrhoea deaths are caused by a lack of access to safe drinking water.

Furthermore, there are 3 million cholera cases and 95,000 cholera deaths worldwide. Typhoid fever affects 11 million people worldwide, with an estimated 129,000 deaths. Millions of people also suffer from neglected tropical diseases, often related to water and hygiene.

Since 1970, Nigeria has had recurring cholera epidemics. The most recent major cholera outbreak occurred in 2018, with 42,466 probable cases and 830 deaths. Between January and October 2021, approximately 100,000 suspected cases of cholera were reported in Nigeria. In the same months, 3,400 people died due to cholera, of which Bauchi, Jigawa, Kano, and Zamfara were the most affected states.

Several donors, including the African Development Bank, the French Development Bank, and the World Bank, support Nigeria’s water and sanitation sector, concentrating on urban water infrastructure.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) leverages these investments through complementing programming that focuses on creating the enabling environment to promote public and private sector water, sanitation, and hygiene investments while also allowing infrastructure investments to last.

Further, to prevent the COVID-19 outbreak from spreading further, USAID and several of its partners focus resources and actions on improving access to good water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH). Reinforcing public health at a vital time as the world’s biggest pandemic in a century sweeps the globe.

By 2022, these efforts are expected to offer sustainable access to essential water services to over 2.5 million Nigerians and help 80,000 Nigerians acquire access to basic sanitation.

Therefore, safe and abundant water enables the practice of cleanliness. Access to WASH can affect years of schooling by reducing the time children spend collecting water to get to school, reducing the prevalence of diseases that can keep them out of school, and contributing to a safe and healthy learning environment.

In addition, people spend less time and effort physically collecting water from improved and more accessible sources, allowing them to be more productive in other ways. Minimising the need to undertake long or dangerous treks to collect and carry water can also increase personal safety and reduce musculoskeletal problems. People are less likely to fall ill and incur medical bills when they have better water supplies, and they are better able to remain economically active.

Furthermore, women and girls suffer the brunt of long-distance water collection, linked to lower well-being, school attendance, and a higher risk of gender-based violence.

Therefore, water and sanitation are critical to achieving the social, economic, governance goals and sustainable development.

Busayo Aderounmu is an economist and researcher.