Access to safe drinking water remains a challenge to majority of Nigerians, especially those living in the rural areas. 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.
The survey also said that Children without access to safe water are more likely to die in infancy and throughout childhood from waterborne diseases like Diarrhea, which remains the leading cause of death among children under ﬁve years of age in Nigeria.
It says waterborne diseases also contribute to stunting and stunted child is shorter than she or he could have been and will never be able to reach her or his full cognitive potential.
UNICEF also said that lack of safe water and sanitation also makes children vulnerable to other threats beyond health.
It also said many children in rural areas spend hours daily collecting water, missing out on the opportunity to go to school.
The Chief of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, UNICEF Nigeria, Mr. Zaid Jurji said that “Improving water and sanitation services, as well as basic hygiene practices in Nigeria, calls for a strong commitment from all partners, the government, the civil society, the private sector and communities”.
He said that UNICEF, in collaboration with the Federal, State and Local Governments, has provided safe water through the WASH projects, during the past five years to over 8 million Nigerians living in rural areas.
“For Nigeria to achieve the global goal of providing access to safe water for every citizen by 2030, it needs to make water, together with sanitation and hygiene, a national priority. This goal is closely linked with three key results for the country – good health, environment sustainability and economic prosperity.” He said.
The UNICEF WASH project is working with various communities in Nigeria to provide water sanitation which has led to some communities being Open Defecation Free.
A UNICEF water expert Dr. Ogundinmu Adedayo, said that most Nigerians suffer from lack of water due to lack of maintainance of water facilities in their localities.
“When you talk of water, it’s a worldwide phenomenon. But societies get the type of water system it wants and by that I mean when you put in a system and we all know the value of water to life essentially the life of young children, future leaders. If you don’t maintain it if you don’t sustain it, if you don’t use it properly and make sure it functions to serve you as and when you need ,the you are going to pay in terms of human loss is unimaginable”. He said.
He called for community ownership of water projects for the benefit of all.
International World Water Day is held annually on 22 March as a means of focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of fresh water resources globally.