• Thursday, May 23, 2024
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BusinessDay

Access to water, hygiene a tall dream in Nigeria

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As the General Assembly comprising of all 193 members of the United Nations met in New York, United States of America (USA) to among other things evaluate the commitment of countries to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) target, halt the spread of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in West Africa, health-related MDG target has remained on the front burner in Nigeria with few months left to 2015.

While the MDG target 7B seeks to halve the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015, access to water, improved sanitation and hygiene is a daily challenge for many Nigerians.

Nigeria’s progress in providing clean water to its inhabitants has been irregular. While the general trend since 2007 has been an overall increase from 49.10 percent to 57.40 percent, this still leaves a gap to target of approximately 20 percent to be covered, according to Nigeria’s 2013 MDG report.

According to the 2013 MDG report, “The problem is particularly acute in rural northern Nigeria where only about 30 percent of the population has access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation. This situation leads to a high prevalence of waterborne diseases, threatens the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and contributes to low levels of school enrolment.

“There is variable progress across the different MDG 7 indicators. Access to an improved drinking water source is about 19.60 percent below the 2015 target of 77.0 percent, while access to improved toilets/latrines is 36.30 percent (the 2015 target is 70.0 percent).

“Good sanitation is important for urban and rural populations, but the risks are greater in urban areas where it is more difficult to avoid contact with waste. Improved sanitation has obvious and immediate effects on health, with diseases like cholera and dysentery often being the results of poor sanitation.”

Otive Igbuzor, executive director, African Centre for Leadership, Strategy & Development, said that access to safe water and sanitation and other environmental challenges are still huge in the country. While achievement of MDG will mean that over 36 million people will not have access to improved water, Igbuzor stated that it is important to look beyond the MDGs to formulate an alternative development strategy to accelerate the development of Nigeria.

According to Igbuzor “Despite the poor profile of Nigeria in terms of achievement of the MDGs, there are some actions that have worked well which need to be scaled up in the post 2015 development agenda. These include institution of monitoring and evaluation of MDG projects, increased budgetary allocation to investment clusters that will accelerate development especially health and infrastructure. No nation serious about development can spend 72 percent of its budget on recurrent expenditure.

“There is the need to improve capacity for execution. It is unthinkable that every year, ministries, departments and agencies cannot implement their budgets with the monumental developmental challenges facing us as a nation. There is the need for state governments, local governments, ministries, departments and agencies to have overarching development strategies.

“No nation, state or organisation can accelerate its development without an overarching strategy to guide its priorities, programmes and actions. Nigeria’s development agenda must go beyond focus on the economy to include political, economic and environmental development.”

For Pat Utomi, a professor of economic and founder/chief executive officer, CVL, “Nigeria is not yet there when it comes to the achievement of the MDG as it relates to health. The lessons learnt from Ebola containment in the country shows that Nigeria can be able to achieve this target if there is the commitment to do so.”

Looking to 2015 and beyond, priority should be given to sustaining progress towards the MDGs, accelerating activities on those MDGs which are lagging and considering priorities and options for post- 2015. Bottlenecks have included wide sub-national disparities in achievement, data inadequacies and programme implementation obstacles among others.

In order to monitor, measure and track the final push towards 2015, it is imperative to improve data collection and reporting on the MDGs. Emphasis should be given to disaggregated data to gauge sub- national achievements alongside national progress. Better MDGs data will provide a good basis for articulating the post-2015 development agenda.

Alexander Chiejina