78m Nigerian children at highest risks of water-related threats – UNICEF

The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) has alerted that 78 million children in Nigeria face the highest risks from diseases related to inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), and climate hazards.

UNICEF raised the alarm through its Nigeria Chief of WASH, Jane Bevan, a medical doctor, preparatory to the UN 2023 Water Conference held at the United Nations headquarters in New York between March 22 and 24, 2023.

Bevan urged the Nigerian government to take urgent action to address its water crisis.

“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 a lack of water and soap at home.

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“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 diarrhoeal diseases,” the UNICEF chief said.

According to the official, Nigeria ranked second out of 163 countries globally with the highest risk of exposure to climate and environmental threats.

She stressed that groundwater levels were dropping, requiring some communities to dig wells twice as deep as just a decade ago.

Bevan noted that rainfall had become more erratic and intense, leading to floods contaminating scarce water supplies.

She warned that with Nigeria’s present commitment to WASH, it would take the nation 16 years to achieve access to safe water for all.

She said, “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.”

She argued that investing in climate-resilient water, sanitation, and hygiene services protects children’s health and ensures a sustainable future for future generations.

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