As the World Water Day was marked around the world recently with the theme ‘Water and Jobs’, Abimbola Akosile looks at the Nigerian scenario and the increased demand for access to clean water, which formed part of a global report released by WaterAid Nigeria
Water for All
Water is the elixir of life; that is no longer news. But the irony is that even this precious liquid is still not available to all, with an estimated 57 million Nigerians yet to have access to clean water.
Also, according to the latest global report by WaterAid, some 650 million people in the world still do not have access to clean water and more than 2.3 billion do not have access to basic sanitation. The consequence of this is better imagined.
Thankfully, adequate water provision is one of the new goals among the new 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and in Nigeria and all over the world, easy access to it cannot be over-emphasised.
As the world marked the World Water Day (WWD) on March 22, governments at all levels in the country are being urged to take action to ensure provision of water, which no human being can do without over an extended period.
A new WaterAid briefing, ‘Water: At What Cost? The State of the World’s Water’, released on this year’s World Water Day, examines the most difficult places in the world for people to get clean water and reveals how the world’s poorest often pay far more of their income for water than those in the developed world.
WaterAid’s analysis shows that in the developed world, a standard water bill is as little as 0.1 per cent of the income of someone earning the minimum wage. However in many developing countries, people reliant on a tanker truck for their water supply could spend as much as 45 per cent of their daily income on water to get just the recommended daily minimum supply.
In some of the world’s poorest countries, families relying on black-market vendors could spend up to 100 times as much on water as those reached by government-subsidised tap stands.
Worldwide, some 650 million people in the world still do not have access to clean water and more than 2.3 billion do not have access to basic sanitation, with devastating results.
Some 315,000 children under five die each year of diarrhoeal diseases related to the lack of these basic rights. And 50 per cent of malnutrition cases are linked to chronic diarrhoea caused by lack of clean water, good sanitation and good hygiene including handwashing with soap.
The briefing, which is WaterAid’s first ever ‘State of the World’s Water’ report offers a snapshot of access to water around the world in 2016. It also ranks nations based on rates of household access to water and on highest populations without access to water, and includes a list of the countries which have improved most in the last 15 years.
While Nigeria features 17 in the list of the top 20 most improved countries for water access over the past 15 years, the African giant is also one of the worst in the world for household water access and features third in the world on a list of the top ten countries with the greatest numbers of people living without access to safe water.
This highlights just how much overall progress can mask the stark inequality that still exists in much of the developing world because even though much progress has been made in reaching a huge population of the world with improved sources of drinking water, tens of millions of people are still unserved with their basic human right to safe water, even in countries that have made the most impressive progress.
India, China and Nigeria have the highest numbers of people waiting for access to clean water
Papua New Guinea, Equatorial Guinea, Angola are the nations in the world with the lowest percentage of households with access to clean water.
Cambodia, Mali, Laos and Ethiopia have made more progress than any other nations on improving access to water for their populations.
Despite much progress, the report finds that inequalities persist even in nations that have made great strides, with the poorest often paying the highest percentages of their income on water.
There remain 16 countries in the world where 40 per cent or more of their population do not have access to clean water – due to low government prioritisation and dedicated funding, shortages in human resources, competition for water resources and the exacerbating effects of climate change.
Speaking on the water issue, WaterAid Nigeria Country Representative, Dr. Michael Ojo said: “On this World Water Day, it is shocking to realise that a life essential such as water can cost a poor person in the developing world as much as half of their income, for an amount that is about one-third of average daily use in the developed world.
“Clean drinking water is a right yet an estimated 31 per cent of people in Nigeria are still living without access to clean water. Increased competition for water resources and climate change are only exacerbating the crisis, which along with lack of sanitation is responsible for the deaths of more than 68,000 children under five each year in the country.
“On World Water Day, we call upon our government and leaders around the world to take urgent action towards keeping the promises made in the UN Global Goals on Sustainable Development, and ensure everyone is able to realise their right to access to clean water by 2030.”
This year’s global theme for World Water Day ‘Water and Jobs’ highlights how enough quantity and quality of water can change lives and livelihoods – and even transform societies and economies. A lack of access to safe water has numerous impacts on work and productivity in many ways.
Almost half of the world’s workers – 1.5 billion people – work in water-related sectors and nearly all jobs depend on water and those that ensure its safe delivery. Yet financing and managing key jobs in the sector is a real struggle that makes it hard for countries to maintain water and sanitation systems, and secure the urgent progress required on Goal 6: universal access to clean and safe water and sanitation by 2030.
The report revealed that walking, queuing, and carrying jerry cans wastes time, and hinder productivity for many girls and women. In sub-Saharan Africa, women spend a combined total of at least 16 million hours each day collecting drinking water. Businesses’ productivity is hit hard by staff absenteeism, turnover and low morale related to lack of access to clean, safe water in workplaces.
Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) are usually considered beyond the remit of a lot of other sectors – a costly perception which hinders progress in achieving overall developmental goals. The positive impact of interventions in many areas is often undermined by lack of water, sanitation and hygiene interventions.
WASH is an essential component of an integrated approach to tackling poverty, hunger, health and inequality and it is essential that WASH is prioritised. Improved water, sanitation and hygiene for all will make sustainable progress across many of the Global Goals.
On the World Water Day, WaterAid reminded governments that the promises of the UN Global Goals on Sustainable Development, to eradicate extreme poverty and create a fairer, more sustainable world, includes Goal 6 to reach everyone, everywhere with clean water and access to safe, private toilets by 2030.
WaterAid is an international organisation with a vision is of a world where everyone has access to safe water and sanitation. It works in 37 countries across Africa, Asia, Central America and the Pacific Region to transform lives by improving access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation in some of the world’s poorest communities. Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 23 million people with safe water and, since 2004, 21 million people with sanitation.
To the organisation and other concerned stakeholders, this promise is achievable but it will take a serious political shift and financing to get there. Nigeria must not be found wanting in this matter of life and death.
“While Nigeria features 17 in the list of the top 20 most improved countries for water access over the past 15 years, the African giant is also one of the worst in the world for household water access and features third in the world on a list of the top ten countries with the greatest numbers of people living without access to safe water”