The authorities should pay adequate attention to water supply

A recent World Bank report on Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector paints a scary picture on the access to clean water in Nigeria and how this impacts negatively on the livelihoods of many Nigerians, in both urban and rural areas. It is a report that should be taken seriously by the relevant authorities with both short and long-term solutions. While the minimum acceptable range an individual needs is between 12 and 16 litres per day, the average amount of water each person receives in Nigeria is put at nine litres and the quality is not guaranteed.

 Even though an estimated 1,239 number of waterworks are connected to urban water utilities across the 36 states and the FCT, less than 50 per cent of them are functional, according to another report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). As a result, about 150,000 children under the age of five die annually from Diarrhea-related diseases that are mostly traceable to unsafe drinking water. In many rural communities in the country today, the challenge is critical as women and children trek long distances to fetch water from streams and ponds that are contaminated. Yet water, sanitation and hygiene are essential to sustainable development. 

Even in the so-called modern cities like Lagos, and Abuja, the federal capital, a large proportion of people have no access to drinking water and, as a joint World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) recently observed, many often resort to using any available space for their convenience. For those who can afford it, boreholes are indiscriminately dug. But that too constitutes its own problems as it undermines the water table and threatens future supply of the commodity. In the absence of water from piped supplies and protected wells, millions of Nigerians living in both rural and urban areas consume what is available.   

While the United Nations General Assembly has recognised drinking water and sanitation as human rights, meaning that everyone must have access to them, the former remains a serious problem for majority of Nigerians. Incidentally, when the former president, Dr Goodluck Jonathan launched the water road map in January 2011, the administration announced some “quick measures to accelerate water coverage”, after releasing some intervention funds for some projects: drilling of motorised borehole in each of the 109 senatorial districts of the country, rehabilitation of 1000 hand pump boreholes in 18 states and installation of some special treatment plants and completing all abandoned water projects. Unfortunately, none of these short-term measures have been met.   

 Potable water and improved sanitation services are verifiable measures for fighting poverty and diseases. Cholera, according to a former president of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Innocent Ujah, is a disease associated with poverty. “If you map the country, you’ll find out that the places where there are outbreaks of cholera are underdeveloped areas where people fetch water from dirty places and drink,” said Ujah. “Also, because of open defecation during rainy seasons, all those faeces will then be washed down into the stream and people drink from some of these streams.”  

Since access to clean water remains a serious problem that must be tackled in Nigeria, we call on authorities in the 36 states to invest more in providing this precious national recourse for our citizens, especially for those that are in the rural areas. As the foundation upon which life is built, studies have shown that without clean water, it is impossible for any society to break out of poverty.


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