Unarguably, water is one of the essentials of life, and aside air, nothing else is more important to human existence than water. In fact, life revolves around water, without it, life comes to a standstill, and that is why it is aptly called life. Besides helping in generating electricity, a crucial element that drives today’s economy, we drink it, wash with it, cook with it and of course without it there would be no food to feed ourselves.
Sadly, today, clean, safe drinking water is not only scarce, but time consuming and at worse expensive. Although, water remains the foundation of life, around the world, many people still spend their entire day searching for it. In places like sub-Saharan Africa, valuable man-hour is wasted either in the search for or gathering water.
It is therefore heartbreaking to note that as important as water is to life, this commodity is not only getting scarcer, it is also for many, becoming unhygienic, thus, adding to the growing health problems around the world. Today, about 1 billion people in the developing world don’t have access to water; yet, we take it for granted, waste it and even pay much to drink it from plastic bottles. Nigeria and Africa in particular are badly hit in this regard. Of the continent’s almost 783 million people, about 300 million have no access to safe drinking water. While, in Nigeria, of the 170 million people, about 66 million do not have access to water, placing the country third and fourth amongst countries around the world with large population without access to improved water sources and sanitation respectively.
Following the poor water supply situation, both in terms of availability and hygiene, Nigeria has a high mortality rate of children 5 years and under. Painfully, Nigeria is among the five countries in the world contributing to about one-third of the global infant mortality rate. Others are the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, Pakistan, China and India. And about 16 per cent of all deaths in the country today are traceable to diarrhoea and other waterborne diseases.
Globally, the disease is said to have killed about 1.8 million people, with 1.6 million of them being children. Other waterborne diseases causing untold pain and sorrow include cholera, guinea worm, river blindness, shistosomiasis or bilharzias and typhoid fever, which affect about 12 million people every year. Overall, about half of the continent’s population suffers from at least one of these diseases each year. This is unacceptable. But redressing this trend can only be achieved through cooperation and rising awareness about the water situation globally, particularly now that up to 60 per cent of water sources on the continent are falling into disrepair according to a report of Water for Africa, an organisation that is involved in providing long term support to water projects in Africa.
Indeed, at no time is the need for global cooperation and sustainable use of water more urgent than now, considering the rise in global population, especially in the developing countries and dwindling water sources aided by advancing deserts and other climatic changes. Today, the world requires more and more water to meet a growing plethora of needs; unfortunately, it is getting scarcer and more unsuitable for consumption.
It is against this backdrop therefore that the relevance of water to national development cannot be overemphasised and the more reason governments at all levels must be proactive in the fight to ensure that its citizenry get this necessity of life. Solving this long-standing water problem will no doubt need the political will of government because water is critical to people and the environment. That political will means increase funding to the sector beyond the present level.
Another effective way might be to adopt the creative method of Coca-Cola Nigeria, called the 3Rs, which are Reduce, Recycle and Replenish. This is about sustainability. Better still, let us use it more sustainably to ensure that we do not run out of it and thus endanger our survival on earth. So, if water is important to us, then it is high time we become more serious in searching, developing and expanding its sources.

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