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Government must invest more in the provision of potable water

In her statement to mark the 2023 World Water Day commemorated yesterday, UNICEF Nigeria Chief of WASH, Jane Bevan disclosed that 78 million children in the country are at risk from a convergence of water-related threats. “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,” wrote Bevan in a report that should concern relevant stakeholders. “Hand hygiene is also limited, with three-quarters of children unable to wash their hands due to lack of water and soap at home.”  

 There are many reasons to worry in Nigeria. Goal Six of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is on ensuring water and sanitation for all by 2030. This means that seven years from now, every person in Nigeria and other countries in the world should have access to safe drinking water and safe sanitation. Yet, our country, according to UNICEF, ranks second out of 163 countries globally with the highest risk of exposure to climate and environmental threats. “Groundwater levels are also dropping, requiring some communities to dig wells twice as deep as just a decade ago. At the same time, rainfall has become more erratic and intense, leading to floods that contaminate scarce water supplies.”  

It is unfortunate that for more than four decades, a preventable disease like cholera has been a recurring epidemic in Nigeria and has led to the death of thousands of our people, especially children. The spread of cholera is worsened when the environment is not clean; when water system is not treated and when sanitation is not taken seriously. In many of our states, the villagers and rural dwellers are left to rely on streams as the only source of drinking water and there are no provisions for disposing waste. In most cases also, the people even rely on stagnant water for washing their clothes and other items. 

What’s more troubling is that if we continue at the current pace, going by UNICEF projection, “it will take 16 years to achieve access to safe water for all in Nigeria. We cannot wait that long, and the time to move quickly is now. Investing in climate-resilient water, sanitation, and hygiene services is not only a matter of protecting children’s health today, but also ensuring a sustainable future for generations to come.” 

The first crisis concerning the spread of the disease begins with failure by most state governments to provide potable water for their teeming population. In fact, chances are that the annual security votes for governors in most of the states astronomically surpass budgetary allocations to the provision of clean water for the people. While there have been some efforts by the federal government to deal with the challenge, we have not seen a corresponding commitment from the state governments where cholera and other water-borne diseases are ravaging citizens the most.  

States must do more in providing adequate clean water, especially for those in the rural areas. The federal government also has to streamline modalities that will train medical staff across the country on how to handle the outbreak of cholera and other water-borne diseases. But since prevention remains the best cure, it is important to take the issue of water more seriously. As critical stakeholders therefore mark the 2023 World Water Day, we hope that government at all levels will work towards accelerating change to solve the water and sanitation crisis. Dysfunction throughout the water cycle, according to the United Nations, “undermines progress on all major global issues, from health to hunger, gender equality to jobs, education to industry, and disasters to peace.” 

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