Water everywhere, but not safe for drinking


As it is often said, water is life. It is a fundamental domestic and industrial necessity in day-to-day activities. But it is not available for all. Even where there are rivers, the water
may not be safe for drinking. RITA ONUOHA examines the situation
COSMAS Okoro, an indigene
of Imo State was shocked
seeing ‘mairuwa’, young men
selling water in jerry-cans
packed in pushcart during his
first visit to Markurdi, Benue
State capital. He thought that
water of River Benue, one of the
country’s longest rivers, should
be running through pipes to
various homes for people’s
domestic use and for industrial
purposes, too. Instead, the
visitor noticed that the people,
especially women and young
ones, were grappling with
serious challenges of adequate
water supply by the state
Residents in cities and towns
along rivers and oceans in the
country get water directly from
the rivers, but the river water,
which is mostly consumed
untreated, is contaminated
with clay, wood, vegetation,
potential pathogens and microorganisms.
Many people bathe
in the river, adding to the
Further contamination occurs
during transportation, often in
a metallic or plastic container
pulled by donkeys through
dusty streets, and during
storage or consumption with
dirty utensils.
United Nation set aside March
22 every year to mark World
Water Day with this year theme
being “water and sustainable
development”. It is a day to
make a difference; a day to
remind us of the population
that still suffer from water
related issues and a day to raise
awareness about the quality of
water we use.
According to World Health
Organisation, WHO, Nigeria
is among group of 10 countries
that have almost two-thirds of
the global population without
access to improved drinking
water sources. Almost 63.2
million people in Nigeria do not
have access to safe water; over
112 million people do not have
access to adequate sanitation in
Nigeria. globally , over threequarters
of billion people, most
of them poor, still don’t have
access to safe water despite
the fact that world on average
met the global target for safe
drinking water set in MDGs 5
years ago.
Also in the UNICEF report,
Nigeria is currently not on track
regarding attainment of water
and sanitation targets with 110
million people without access
to improved sanitation and
with another 70million people
without access to safe water. It
estimates that in Africa alone,
people spend 40 billion hours
every year in just walking to
collect water. For children, lack
of access to safe water can be
tragic. On average, nearly 1,000
of them die globally every day
from diarrhoea diseases linked
to unsafe drinking water, poor
sanitation or poor hygiene and
that the burden is more in local
In order to achieve sustainable
water delivery in Nigeria, the
federal government in partnership
with the United States Agency
for International Development,
USAID, has reiterated its
commitment to continue to support
all effort in capacity building in
order to enhance the operations of
state water utilities.
The World Bank, according to
reports, has completed seven water
projects since 1985 and had three
on-going projects in 2010. Total
investment for the 10 projects is
about US$1.4 billion. The First
Urban Water Reform Project
(US$120 million) targets 13 towns
in Kaduna, Ogun and Enugu
The project also aims to establish
state water policies, and to foster
the engagement with the private
sector. The second Urban Water
Reform Project worth US$200
million supports the extension
of the piped network in Calabar,
and the rehabilitation of water
treatment plants and distribution
systems in Lagos as well as another
three towns in Cross River State.
Under a Privatization Project,
the Federal Capital Territory, FCT
Water Board is being assisted with
US$25 million. In 2012 the World
Bank approved a US$400 million
National Urban Water Sector
Reform Project for Lagos, Kaduna,
Ogun, Enugu and Cross River
States. So, as Nigeria joined the
rest of the world to celebrate World
Water Day, the event once again
brought to the fore consequences
of lack of water access to safe water
According to Dr. Michael
Ojo, Water Aid Nigeria
country representative at the
commemoration of the start of the
campaign said safe water, basic
and sectors, such as education
and health, to secure and
protect the right of poor people
to safe, affordable water and
sanitation services. We work
with government at all levels
in order to try and ensure that
there is improved access to
water, sanitation and hygiene
for all and especially the poorest,
marginalised and most vulnerable.
“At federal and state levels, we
work with the FMOWR, SMOWR
and other relevant MDA’s with
a stake in the WASH sector.
Support development of policy
formulation, legal framework,
M& E, strengthening of sector
coordination platforms and
enabling environment that will
support improvement in access
to WASH.
“At local government level,
we build capacity of LG to
deliver WASH services and
ensure sustainability. We support
them in development of local
development plans (investment
plan for actualising WASH)”, he
Speaking during the opening
of a five day training workshop
in Abuja recently, Engr. Rufus
Chukwuma Onyeanusi, Director
Water Supply in the Federal
Ministry of Water Resources,
who represented the permanent
secretary, Mr. Istifanus Musa
Fuktur on the commercialisation
of urban water services for water
utilities in Nigeria, pledged
the support of the ministry to
enhance the functionality of state
water utilities.
According to Geoffery Njoku,
media and external relations of
UNICEF, In the effort to meet
the Millennium Development
Goal Target of providing clean
and save water to about half of
the world’s population, UNICEF
with the support of European
Union and UK Aid funding, has
provided a means for at least
2.3million people to have access
to improved sources of drinking
water since 1990.
He said that UNICEF also
said nearly 2.5billion people
worldwide still do not have
adequate toilets and among them
1billion defecate in the open as
regards sanitation.
“This year’s theme on World
Water Day is ‘Water and
Sustainable Development’.
sanitation and improved hygiene
play a crucial role in all of human
development for water, sanitation
and that hygiene are intricately
linked. Lack of access to these
basic services contributes to high
mortality and morbidity rates
especially amongst children.
“Annually, nearly half a million
babies die in the first month of
life because they are born into
unhygienic conditions and one in
five deaths of newborn babies in
the developing world are caused
by infections strongly linked
to dirty water or unhygienic
condition. In Nigeria nearly 52,000
newborn babies died from sepsis,
tetanus and other infections linked
to dirty water and lack of hygienic
in 2013 alone.
“Tragically for these one in five
babies who die in their first month
in the developing world, just
being washed in clean water and
cared for in a clean environment
by people who had washed their
hands could have prevented their
deaths. In Nigeria one woman
in every 23 will on average lose
a baby to infection during her
lifetime compared to one in 7,518
in the United Kingdom, UK,” he
Ojo further stated, “WaterAid
collaborates with partners to
develop models, strengthen
institutional capacities, secure
changes in policies and practices
and influence decision-makers
for enhanced sector governance
and performance. We work by
helping local organisations set up
low cost, sustainable projects using
appropriate technology that can be
managed by the community itself.
“We also seek to influence the
policies of other key organisations