Millions of Nigerians living in the 36 states of the federation have been battling with lack of access to clean portable water and sanitation which has resulted in major public health challenges leading to death of many.
Inadequate sanitation coupled with population increase and rapid urbanisation rates have created serious deficiency in the quality of life of an average Nigerian with dire consequences on hygiene, food, security, health, employment and standard of living.
In the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja there are communities with little or no access to portable water and they resort to fetching water from dirty streams and abandoned soakage pits.
Kayache, a small community in Kuje Area Council of the FCT, members of the community resort to fetching water from abandoned soak-away pits .
According to a widow and a mother-of-seven in the community, Mrs. Rose Amadi who is also a farmer said they do not have any source of pipe borne water in the community, hence they fetch water from abandoned soak pit or river which is not safe but they have to make do with it.
‘Finding a good source of safe water is often time consuming and expensive, as such we go to fetch from abandoned soak pits especially during rainy season”.
Mrs Amadi says the journey to the river is usually very tedious and the route is dangerous since they have to go through bushy paths just to get water. Usually women get raped or bitten by snakes on their way to fetch water which they need to use for household chores.
“We really we have difficulty in fetching water. I wake up by 5: am daily to cook and prepare my children for school before heading to the river to fetch water. It takes sometimes about an hour to get to there.”
“I use to go and fetch water six times and I use to have body pain. My daughters that have come of age use to help me to fetch water at list one or two times in a day. I go to fetch water in the river because I don’t have money to go buy water from a borehole.”
The water from the river is not clean because some people defecate, bath and wash clothes in the same place where they fetch water to drink.
She added that in dry season water scarcity in Kayache is so severe that a small stream close to the village runs dry, leaving residents with no option than to bear the long trek to the river.
‘The river is far and no one can walk down the river more than two times in a day. People get tired after the second round,’ she said.
The situation in Kayache is similar to that of Bassan Jiwa , another sprawling community adjoining the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport where there seems to be no access to clean portable water.
A resident of the community, Hilda Dada said due to the lack of access to portable water, they resort to local water dealers otherwise known as ‘Mai ruwa’ to carry out their house chores.
The community head of Kayache, Musa Kaura said there have been interventions by some organisations through the provision of boreholes, which he said are all faulty.
He therefore appealed to the authorities in charge of water provision for the FCT to come to their aid.
In Kuchingoro, a sprawling community along the Musa Yar’Adua highway in Abuja, the residents are witnessing degrading environmental sanitation where residents dump waste on the streets and on roadsides. This has led to the widespread of diseases.
According to them, the government has not provided an official dumpsite where waste can be disposed properly.
Access to safe water supply and basic sanitation are the major problems plaguing many communities in Nigeria. Without access to portable water supply and basic sanitation, the development and wellbeing of the populace will be in jeopardy.
According to data report obtained from the Federal Ministry of Water Resources in Nigeria in 2015, the population with access to sanitation recorded a downward trend from 37% in 1990 to 34% in 2000 and further to 31% in 2010 but has improved to 41%in 2012.
It added that, “Nigeria loses about 455 billion naira annually due to poor sanitation. Hygiene promotion is crucial if people are to use facilities properly and avoid water and sanitation related diseases.By adopting basic hygiene practices such as hand washing at critical times, diarrhoeal diseases in children can be drastically reduced”.
The implication of poor sanitation in Nigeria is the high diarrhoea prevalence rate and about 157 deaths in every 1000 live births as well as other sanitation and hygiene related diseases such as; scabies, typhoid fever, malaria, trachoma and ring worm.
According to some stakeholders in the Rural Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion in Nigeria, RUSHPIN programme, inadequate sanitation coupled with population increase and rapid urbanisation rates have created serious deficiency in the quality of life of an average Nigerian with dire consequences on hygiene, food security, health, employment and standard of living.
To address these issues of poor hygiene and provide a framework for water and sanitation sector in Nigeria the National Water Supply and Sanitation Policy in the year 2000 was developed for the provision of sufficient potable water and adequate sanitation to all Nigerians in an affordable and sustainable way. The policy promotes participatory investment by the three tiers of government, the private sector and the beneficiary community.
Nigeria in showing its commitment to the achievement of the MDG targets for sanitation and water supply and the implementation of the Sharm El Sheik Declaration for accelerating the achievement of sanitation and water goals in Africa, inaugurated in May, 2002 the National Task Group on Sanitation, NTGS, to coordinate sanitation development activities in the country.
The NTGS has been in the forefront of raising awareness on sanitation and hygiene; monitoring sanitation and hygiene programme implementation and advocating for effective sanitation delivery at all levels of government. Key amongst its activities is advocating for the implementation of Community Led –Total Sanition, CLTS approach which has proved successful in facilitating rural communities to stop open defecation, build and use latrines without any hardware subsidy.
In the promotion of sanitation and hygiene, the NTGS collaborates with the State Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agencies, RUWATSSAs, the local government wash units and communities in the delivery of services.
Reports from NTGS, over 9,000 communities in 32 out of 36 states are implementing CLTS in the country and capacity of all 36 states enhanced for its implementation.
“Significant progress has been made in the provision of safe water supply nationwide during the past decade to contribute to the socio-economic development and poverty reduction of the nation. However, obtaining optimal benefit from the provision of water supply requires it to be complemented with promotion of access to adequate sanitation and improved hygiene practices”.
In order to tackle the problems of poor hygiene in relation to poor water supply quality, the former Minister of Water Resources, Sarah Ochekpe at the first Technical Committee meeting on the review of Nigerian Standard for Drinking Water Quality, NSDQW which held in Abuja recently, called on Nigerians to cooperate with relevant government agencies to ensure strict compliance with water quality standards stating that about 70% of common tropical diseases are water related.
She explained that Nigeria is faced with quite a number of water quality issues, hence it requires that drinking water supplies to the public must be wholesome and potable to avert ill-health.
“In Nigeria, water quality is declining mainly due to human activities; increasing population growth, rapid urbanisation, discharge of new pathogens and new chemicals from industries and agriculture are key factors that contribute to the deterioration of water quality.”
Similarly, Director, water control and sanitation in the Ministry of Water Resources, S.O. Ome also called on members of the technical committee to take steps to ensure that the standard of drinking water quality in Nigeria is improved upon.
The Director General of Standard Organisation of Nigeria, SON, Dr. Joseph I. Odumodu said the establishment and implementation of NSDWQ is expected to ensure the protection of consumers.
“It is expected that that the NSDWQ will speed up the process of upgrading non-protected water systems and improving the management of all drinking water systems in the country”.
He added that whatever the challenges that are encountered in the course of implementing the standards or quality changes that need to be accommodated in the standard should be examined with the same vigour and thoroughness as was done during the elaboration of the standard.
For her part, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Programme, WASH ambassador, Ebele Okeke said high quality water supply will reduce the spread of Diarrhoea, Cholera and child mobility by 50%.
The World Bank, African Development Bank, AfDB, French Development Agency, FDA, and Japan International Corporation Agency, JICA, said last year during a water stakeholder workshop that it was supporting Nigeria with $638million financial commitment to help in strengthening the implementation of Urban Water Sector Reform Project in Nigeria which will go a long way to boost water supply and sanitation in the country.
The World Bank Country Director, Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly disclosed that the bank had provided a support bank financing of $250million for the third phase of water sector reform in Bauchi, Rivers, Ekiti, and Cross River state.
She said the lack of access to water and sanitation in Nigeria was not acceptable, adding that women spend months looking for safe drinking water.
Francoise called for increase water coverage in the rural parts of the country.
The Deputy Country Director AfDB, Mrs. Babara Barungi said the bank was providing a finance facility of $205million to boost water supply and sanitation in Rivers State, adding that the bank have Invested $760million in the sector since 1986.
She called for improved financial management in states where the projects are located.
French Development Agency, AFD Country Director, Hubert Dogin said the agency will assist Ogun State with $33million in its Urban Water Reform Project.
He said the funds will assist the World Bank investment in its third phase programme to increase access to water, sanitation.
The JICA country Director, Seki Tetsuo said the Agency is approving $150million on development of water facilities.
He said JICA was working towards building capacities of State Water Board Agencies to improve the provision of utilities to consumers.
According to these water experts, water utilities in Nigeria like other developing countries battle with challenges of ; weak performance, insufficient funding, institutional deficiencies and high incidences of political interference.
Despite all these donations getting safe water in some parts of the country is still a dream yet to be fulfilled as many have resorted to indiscriminate sinking of boreholes.