With the global celebration of World Water Day, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in its new analysis revealed that Nigeria is included among 12 hotspot countries worldwide with insufficient water for children daily.
This is however not alien to other countries as more than 1.4 billion people globally including 450 million children reside in locations with a high level of water vulnerability.
Other countries include Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Haiti, Kenya, Niger, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Sudan, Tanzania, and Yemen. The cumbersome number reveals that 1 in 5 children worldwide lacks the needed amount of water required daily.
According to Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, “the world’s water crisis is not coming – it is here, and children are its biggest victims”.
The analysis also revealed that Nigeria is classified among the hotspot countries with dreadful circumstances in the area of numbers, the number of children affected, and in urgent need of global resources, support, and action.
Communities located around these areas have to settle for surface water, contaminated water, or water that would involve trekking long distances of more than 30 minutes to obtain from clean sources. UNICEF disclosed that consistent and equal access to safe drinking waters continues to be a challenge in the country as over 86 percent of Nigerians cannot procure safely managed drinking water.
The United Nations (UN) agency revealed that the problem is rather worsened by poor drinking water quality and the absence of equity inaccessibility.
Joseph Ibrahim, water and environmental experts stated that the figure may have been underestimated. “I think that figure is a little bit conservative in the sense that as Nigerians, we know that more of our population live in the rural areas.
I think the World Bank’s statistics tell us that about 51 percent of our population reside in the rural areas and it is common knowledge that the rural population doesn’t have access to clean water,” he said.
“While the impact of water scarcity can be felt by all, no one suffers more than the most vulnerable children. Children and families living in vulnerable communities face the double-edged sword of coping with high water scarcity levels while having the lowest water services, making access to sufficient water especially susceptible to climate shocks and extreme events,” Hawkins stated.
Nigeria is blessed with an abundance of water resources. Many of its 36 states are named after rivers as surface water are located in almost every area of the country with many stored in the ground. With 215 cubic kilometers a year of available surface water, the country has more than enough when compared to many African countries, especially those in the southern and northern regions.
South Africa has just about 49 cubic kilometers a year. Over 70 percent of Nigerians are said to have access to basic water services, however, more than half of these water sources are contaminated. A meager nine liters of water on average are available to Nigerians daily.
The lack of access to reliable and saddle drinking water also with poor sanitation and hygiene has cost Nigeria about $1.3 billion in access time, loss resulting from premature death, productive time loss, and health care costs.
There have also been reports of potentially toxic concentrations of metals found in Nigeria’s drinking water. UNICEF has warned that with the present state, Nigeria will not be able to meet the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets on citizens’ access to water except strong commitment backed by the necessary action is being taken.
The question that comes to mind is why is the country suffering from a lack of sufficient water with the abundance of water resources? Nigeria has been unable to properly manage its water resources for the development of the economy and environmental sustainability.
There have been intentions aimed at providing water that meets the standards of the World Health Organization but poor regulatory, legal, and institutional frameworks have impeded such progress.
South Africa for example prescribes the minimum amount and quality of water required for domestic activities and hygiene for every citizen while also providing the minimum amount and quality of water that the environment needs to maintain and protect ecosystems.
Providing safe water would require that the country embrace science policy and practice. Also, the federal, state and local governments must put heads together to come up with regulations for controlling water quality. A water quality monitoring network and a water quality database are required in the country. This is to help store physical, chemical, biological, and ecological information.
Public awareness must be raised in every part of the state on the value of water while coming up with water supply schemes. “We can only achieve water security for every Nigerian – including the Nigerian child – through innovation, investment, and collaboration, and by ensuring services are sustainable and well-managed. We must act – for the sake of our children and our planet” the UNICEF Representative added.
This is in commemoration of World Water Day.