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World Water Day: The data behind Nigeria’s woeful drinking water situation


Safe drinking water is a luxury in Nigeria and only a negligible percentage of the population has access to this luxury.

Budgeting for clean and safe drinking water provision has been abysmal over the years. As a result, 57 million Nigerians do not have access to safe water and almost 60,000 children under five years old die every year from diarrhoeal diseases caused by poor water and sanitation, according to Water Aid.

With less than five percent of Nigerians having access to improved drinking water source that is accessible on premises, available when needed and free from contamination, Nigeria is likely to miss the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) target. Goal 6 of SDG sets an ambitious target of achieving universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all by 2030.

A significant percentage of Nigerians spend valuable time to get improved and unimproved drinking water, according to Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS 2016-2017).


World Water Day is marked every March 22 to draw attention to the importance of water.

In a statement, Unicef, the UN children’s agency, said access to safe drinking water remains a challenge to majority of Nigerians, especially those living in the rural areas.

Unicef pointed out that “the recent Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS), conducted by the Government of Nigeria in 2016/17, indicates that about 40 per cent of households and about 69 million people, do not have access to clean water sources. In the rural areas, 19 million people walk long distances to collect unsafe water from lakes, streams and rivers.”

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According to Unicef, without access to safe water,  children are more likely to die in infancy and throughout childhood from waterborne diseases.

“Diarrhea remains the leading cause of death among children under five years of age in Nigeria. Waterborne diseases also contribute to stunting.A stunted child is shorter than she or he could have been and will never be able to reach her or his full cognitive potential.

“Lack of safe water and sanitation also makes children vulnerable to other threats beyond health. Many children in rural areas spend hours daily collecting water, missing out on the opportunity to go to school.”

Globally, it is estimated that 1.8 billion people use a source of drinking water contaminated with faeces, putting them at risk of contracting cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio. Unsafe water, poor sanitation and hygiene cause around 842,000 deaths each year, according to UN.



    The theme for World Water Day 2018 is ‘Nature for Water’ – exploring nature-based solutions to the water challenges  in the 21st century.

    According to the UN, environmental damage, together with climate change, is driving water-related crises  around the world, awhile floods, drought and water pollution are all made worse by degraded vegetation, soil, rivers and lakes.

    The UN is advocating nature-based solutions to solve many of water challenges. “We need to do so much more with ‘green’ infrastructure and harmonize it with ‘grey’ infrastructure wherever possible,” it said. “Planting new forests, reconnecting rivers to floodplains, and restoring wetlands will rebalance the water cycle and improve human health and livelihoods.”

    Infographics by Victoria Nwaziri


    Chikezie can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @KezieOmeje

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