UNICEF: Water Sanitation, Hygiene Can Address Malnutrition in Nigeria


Martins Ifijeh
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has stated that access to portal water, improved sanitation and hygiene can prevent children from diarrhea and malnutrition.
It said poor access to portable water, open defecation and lack of proper hygiene have been linked to increase diarrheal diseases, which in turn affects the nutritional status of children, especially those below five years of age.

Stating this during a Media Dialogue on Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), organised by the Child Rights Information Bureau (CRIB) of the Federal Ministry of Information in collaboration with UNICEF with support from European Union (EU), in Awka recently, a WASH Specialist, UNICEF, Ms Mainga Banda said five bouts of diarrhea could result in under-nutrition.

She said WASH has a critical role to play not only in reduction of diarrhea disease but, in prevention of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) which she described as a silent killer of While emphasising that Nigeria is doing well in areas of water supply, she said the major concern should be on addressing sanitation as millions of homes in rural areas in the country still lack latrine, TP taps, basic hand washing tools, among others.

“Poor WASH can cause myriads of problems, including death. A mother who just delivered can infect her baby by mere carrying the baby if her hands are not properly washed. With proper hygiene, the woman can help prevent the baby from sepsis or deaths by about 15 per cent.

“Poor WASH can affect school attendance because a child who is infected with bouts of diarrhea can end up becoming undernourished, and on the long run may lead to stunting, poor attendance in school. It can also lead to poor learning in school.”

She also explained that with good sanitation women and girls gain their dignity, adding that girls lose self esteem and avoid school because of difficulty in managing their menstrual cycle.

Bemoaning the impact of poor WASH on children’s health and development, she stressed that the problem is a multi-sectoral one which requires multi-faceted approach to tackle.

She therefore noted that UNICEF will continue to pay special attention to WASH and health facilities in its focus areas.

Meanwhile, the Programme Manager, Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency, Ministry of Public Utilities and Water Resources, Anambra State, Ezekwo Victor said the state government was committed to WASH, adding that Governor Willie Obiano has rehabilitated 116 non functional boreholes across the state.

“We have also completed 33 water supply schemes, the compilation of phase 11 rehabilitation works for non functional boreholes, among others.”

Also,the Deputy Director, Child Right Information Bureau of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, Mr. Olumide Osanyinpeju commended UNICEF and EU for their support in ensuring that safe water, sanitation and hygiene were brought to rural people of Nigeria through the WASH Programme.

According to him, the issue of safe water and sanitation has been in the front burner of developmental issues in Nigeria because it affects a major segment of the society – children.
Osanyinpeju said: “The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) six clearly emphasises the importance of clean water and sanitation. Water and Sanitation are essential for the survival and development of all children, while simple hygiene such as hand washing can save lives.

On his part, the UNICEF Communication Specialist, Mr Geoffrey Njoku identified objectives of dialogue to include creation of visibility for WASH interventions, donors and to generate human interest stories for publication.
Njoku said that it was an opportunity for journalists to develop human angle stories that would encourage Nigerian government to increase investments in WASH interventions.