It is estimated that about 59 million Nigerians lack access to clean drinking water. According to WaterAid, a civil society organization, 87 per cent of the entire Nigerian population lack access to clean drinking water, and a study reportedly released by World Bank in 2017, said the number of city dwellers with access to public water was less than 10 per cent in 2015, down from 25 per cent in 1990. This clearly implies that while global water accessibility has improved – with the world attaining 88 per cent target set under the Millennium Development Goal five years ago before 2015, Nigeria’s fortunes has drowned. It has failed to reach the MDG target on water and sanitation. There is a need for the government to act on that.
WASH – Water, Sanitation and Hygiene – is a concept introduced to provide a solution on the challenge of people’s access to water. The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) explained WASH as a collective term that emphasizes the interdependence of the three concepts. For example, without toilets, water resources become contaminated; and without clean water, basic hygiene practices are impossible.
Many people in Nigeria walk long distances to get water – which may not even be suitable for drinking. In rural areas, many drink from open streams, rivers, shallow wells and ponds. For example, the Idu community within the Federal Capital Territory. The people there drink from the same place as cows. It leaves them vulnerable to zoonotic diseases. And besides, open water streams and rivers are also vulnerable to pathogens in faeces whenever it rains.
Lack of clean water and proper hygiene is mostly felt in the number of infectious diseases that are contracted, especially by children. Such diseases are cholera, diarrhea, polio, etc. These diseases can lead to death if they are not treated. The cost of treating them can render one penniless. This is why the government has to take the right decisions by investing in WASH. The government should partner with private investors to expand access to water. It should also be made mandatory that houses should no longer be built without toilets, and every public facility should have them too. The National Action Plan developed by the Ministry of Water Resources should be enabled and the National Water Resource Bill should be passed.