Amid climate change threat, 80% of Nigerians lack handwashing facilities

DESPITE having some of the poorest data on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) globally, Nigeria is facing the hurdle of climate change as it hopes to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Six, which requires that nations deliver clean water and sanitation to their people by 2030.

Similarly, WASH data in Nigeria, published by WaterAid, show that four in five people in the country, amounting to 80 percent of the population, lack handwashing facilities at home.

Climate change became the focus of major stakeholders as the world commemorated this year’s World Water Day on March 22.

Nigeria is among nations facing the challenges posed by climate change.

In 2009, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) charged Nigeria to take the lead in climate action. Citing predictions of the Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NIMET) on vagaries of weather during the year, the agency said it was high time that the country took the lead in tackling the challenge.

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The United Nation’s Children Fund, WaterAid and the Nigerian government were among institutions that identified climate change as one of the issues to address in their World Water Day commemoration message this year, so the world would enjoy freer access to potable water.

The most official data on WASH in Nigeria are from the yearly survey conducted by the Federal Ministry of Water Resources tagged, ‘National Outcome Routine Mapping of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Service in, Nigeria 2019.’

The survey was carried out by the Nigerian government with the support of European Union, World Bank, UNICEF and UK Aid.

It shows that nine percent of people living in the country have access to basic water, sanitation, hygiene services, while 70 percent of the population use basic drinking water services.

Rural population in the country use nine litres average per capita volume of water per day; 44 percent use basic sanitation services, while 46 million practise open defecation, according to the report.

Further analysis of the report shows that 16 of households have access to basic hand hygiene services; 14 percent of schools have basic water and sanitation services; seven percent of health facilities have basic water and sanitation services, while 14 percent of markets and motor parks have basic water and sanitation services.

Snapshot of WaterAid website containing data on WASH in Nigeria

The figures nearly tally with what has been published by WaterAid Nigeria, an international non-governmental organisation, which focusses on water, sanitation and hygiene.

The WASH data, published by WaterAid, show that three in 10 people in Nigeria do not have clean water close to home just as three in five people in Nigeria have no toilet of their own.

In its message to commemorate World Water Day, the organisation said without easy access to clean water, people’s lives would be blighted by sickness, poverty and the endless drudgery of collecting water.

It argued that climate change was threatening access to water for the world’s poorest,

The organisation noted that unless urgent action was taken to help the world’s poorest communities adjust to changing weather patterns, climate change would bring the progress recorded on clean water decades backward.

WaterAid says its latest report ‘Turn the tide: The state of the world’s water 2021,’ shows how people lose access to clean water, following changing climate.

The report shows that longer droughts dry up springs and seawater infiltrates groundwater supplies and landslides.

It argues that investing in water systems that provide a reliable supply, whatever the weather, is a frontline defence against the impact of climate change.

“With less than a decade to deliver on Sustainable Development Goal 6 – clean water and sanitation for all, WaterAid is calling on governments at sub-national and national levels to address current and future threats to water access as part of climate actions plans –including the National Action Plan for the Revitalisation of the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene sector (NAP), and national budgets. We are also urging the government to ensure the voices of local communities and marginalised groups are heard in planning decisions around adaptation,” the NGO state’s.

It adds: “Inadequate access to potable water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) can negatively impact health, in addition to having huge socio-economic consequences in a society. Use of contaminated drinking water and poor sanitary result in increased vulnerability to water-borne diseases such as diarrhoea which is a serious threat to many Nigerians.

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“Absence of proper WASH services has also been linked to malnutrition and educational attainment among young children and loses in economic and environmental resources. Nigeria barely met its SDGs for water supply. Progress with the sanitation goals, on the other hand, has declined over the years and millions of people were left without access to toilet in 2015.”

Meanwhile, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) said climate change affected water supply. In a message on its website, the agency said extreme weather events and changes in water cycle patterns were making it more difficult to access safe drinking water, especially for the most vulnerable children.

The agency said around 450 million children lived in areas of high or extremely high water vulnerability.

People queueing for water at Iddo community in Abuja some years ago.
Photo credit: Marcus Fatunmole

UNICEF said contaminated water posed a huge threat to children’s lives, stressing that water and sanitation related diseases were some of the leading causes of death in children under 5 years old.

According to the organisation, over 700 children under five died from diarrhoea linked to inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene, predicting that by 2040, almost one in four children would live in areas of extremely high water stress.

It added that around 74 percent of natural disasters between 2001 and 2018 were water-related, and that the frequency and intensity of such events were only expected to increase with climate change.

Water resources minister Suleiman Adamu said the day was being commemorated to achieve the goal of water for all.

“Water for all implies that the elderly, disabled, marginalised and poor people get access to clean drinking water and proper sanitation in line with Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 6.1 and 6.2,” he said in his address while briefing journalists before proceeding to commission a water project executed by the federal government at Chika, along Airport Road, Abuja.

Adamu emphasised the value of water, which was the theme for this year’s commemoration and highlighted efforts of President Muhammadu Buhari government to give value to waters in the country.

He listed some of the successes recorded by the Buhari government in the water sector, including the challenges facing the sector in the country.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) focussed on using water to defeat neglected-tropical diseases (NTDs) within the next decade, in its message for the World Water Day.

WHO said without clean water and soap, “it is difficult to implement simple and effective public health actions that can prevent and manage debilitating NTDs: face-washing for trachoma, a disease which leads to painful, irreversible blindness; limb-washing for lymphatic filariasis, in which worms invade the lymph system and cause severe oedema, especially of the legs; wound-washing for rabies, where cleaning the lesion thoroughly after a dog-bite can decrease the chances of infection by the virus from canine saliva; and hand-washing for intestinal worms, whose eggs are ingested with food inappropriately manipulated and contaminated with soil.

“Large inequalities in access to WASH continue to persist: at least 2 billion people rely on water supplies that are unsafe; 673 million practice open defecations, and, an estimated 3 billion people have no access to basic handwashing facilities1 to practice personal hygiene.



    “The need for a joint WASH/NTD initiative to integrate the relatively unconnected activities of these two important sectors became evident after the publication of the first NTD road map in 2012. This led to the publication, in 2015, of the first strategy and action plan that provided a framework for collaboration and joint planning, delivery and evaluation of programmes,” the organisation said.

    Of the N13.6 trillion signed into law as 2021 budget by the federal government, N10.073 billion and159.74 billion were approved as recurrent and capital expenditures on water respectively.

    Globally, 818m children lack access to soap and water in their schools – Report

    The figures do not include other water projects to be executed by other agencies and departments of government, including the members of the National Assembly who might have included water projects into their constituency programmes.

    There are about 210 million people in Nigeria currently, according to the National Population Commission.

    Marcus bears the light, and he beams it everywhere. He's a good governance and decent society advocate. He's The ICIR Reporter of the Year 2022 and has been the organisation's News Editor since September 2022. Contact him via email @ [email protected].

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