This Day (Lagos)

28 February 2013

Nigeria: Mounting Concern Over Access to Clean Water

The NOI Polls recently released a survey on access to clean water in Nigeria. Abimbola Akosile examines the water situation and its impact on the country's development process

Sobering Polls

The latest poll results released by NOI Polls has revealed that access to clean water remains a major challenge to almost half of the populace (47 per cent).

In addition, 83 per cent of Nigerians source their drinking water privately, while only about 1 in 10 respondents (9 per cent) are connected to the public sewerage system. These were the three key findings from the Access to Clean Water Snap poll done in the week of February 18.

MDG Aspect

Goal 7 of the eight global Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is to 'Ensure Environmental Sustainability' in all member countries of the United Nations. Increasing access to safe drinking water is a key goal.

The target, under Goal 7.C is to halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.

The goal monitor however noted that the world is on track to meet the drinking water target, though much remains to be done in some regions; accelerated and targeted efforts are needed to bring drinking water to all rural household; and that safe water supply remains a challenge in many parts of the world.

The goal monitor also noted that with half the population of developing regions without sanitation, the 2015 target appears to be out of reach; disparities in urban and rural sanitation coverage remain daunting; and improvements in sanitation are bypassing the poor.

Water Road-map

The Nigerian government in January 2011 launched the 'water road-map', a blueprint that describes the government's objectives in developing the nation's water resources between 2011 and 2015. The plan includes the promise that 75 per cent of Nigerians will have access to clean water by 2015.

Also, as parts of effort in ensuring adequate supply of food, power generation and improved water supply and sanitation, the Federal Government has inaugurated new management teams of River Basin Development Authorities (RBDAs). The process was spurred in Abuja by the Minister of Water Resources, Mrs. Sarah Ochekpe.

The RBDAs are the main parastatals of the Ministry of Water Resources established since 1976 to ensure that a nationwide systematic and consistent programme of integrated water resources development and management is achieved for the socio-economic development of the nation through their project executions especially among rural communities.

Summit Fallout

According to experts, lack of access to water leads to a high prevalence of water-borne diseases, and all over the world, approximately 3 million children under five years old die yearly from diarrheal illnesses, mostly acquired from contaminated water.

With the just concluded Presidential Summit on Water which held between February 18 and 19 of February 2013, NOI Polls sought the opinion of Nigerians regarding access to water and sanitary facilities.

The NOI Polls survey asked people five specific questions. The first question sought to establish the source of drinking water in households. Respondents were asked: How do you currently get drinking water at home? Results indicated that the majority (27 per cent) by a slight margin currently drink sachet water commonly referred to as 'pure water'.

Another 25 per cent get drinking water at home from private boreholes, and 19 per cent drink bottled, packaged water. Other sources are the Water board/Government (11 per cent), public bore holes (6 per cent) and private wells (5 per cent).

Different Results

The results of the NOI Polls survey showed that the majority of people in Nigeria (83 per cent overall) source their drinking water privately, as opposed to depending on the State. The safety of these sources of water is questionable, particularly 'pure water' of which its treatment and subsequent sale is still a major point of contention between NAFDAC and the manufacturers, the survey noted.

The result contradicted the claims of Nigeria's Ministry of Water Resources, which stated that 58 per cent of the country's population has access to safe drinking water as provided by the Government.

Respondents were subsequently asked: Is access to clean water a challenge to you and your household? According to NOI, a slight majority (53 per cent) responded negatively, showing that access to clean water is not a challenge. The remaining 47 per cent of respondents surveyed stated that access to clean water is indeed a challenge to them and their households.

When responses were further analysed across geo political zones, access to clean water was found to be a greater challenge in the North East and North West than in other geo political zones in Nigeria.

This, according to NOI is in line with an assertion made by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) that the water problem is particularly acute in the rural Northern Nigeria; where only about 30 per cent of the population has access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation.

The results highlighted that access to clean water and sanitation remains a major challenge for most Nigerians, but more pronounced in the North-West and North-East regions of the country. Also in spite of several projects currently being undertaken by development partners and multilateral organisations such as UNICEF, USAID, WaterAid, UNDP and World Bank, there is very low awareness of such projects among Nigerians.

WASH Concern

Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), a media network concerned with sanitation and water, has said that 63.6 million Nigerians have no access to potable water.

The Chairman of its Plateau chapter, Dennis Deteer, disclosed this in Jos when the body paid a recent advocacy visit to Plateau State Community and Social Development Agency. He said that Nigeria's MDG target was to supply 74 per cent of the population with safe drinking water and 69 per cent of the population with adequate sanitation by 2015.

According to him, only 58 per cent of Nigerians had access to safe drinking water, with only 32 per cent population having access to good sanitation. "At current rate of progress, the water target will be achieved in 2033, which is 18 years after the proposed 2015," he said.

WASH media network was a brain child of the Water Aid Nigeria with the objective of advocating, facilitating, supporting and monitoring water and sanitation issues. "The network has also been a voice for the voiceless majority in poor urban and rural communities on WASH issues," he said.

Water for All

Aside the fact that adequate clean water and sanitation form crucial parts of the MDGs which are expected to be realised in 2015, the effects on the development process in the country cannot be over-emphasised.

It does not stretch the imagination to know that any increase in clean water supply and sanitation has a corresponding inverse effect on diseases like cholera and diarrhoea, and even malaria, which are notable child killers.

The federal government has a road-map and has initiated moves and partnerships to address the national water and sanitation situation, but the onus is on government to also follow the map to the letter. The alternative scenario is better imagined than experienced. The recent CNN expose on power supply in Nigeria is a useful case study. The citizens are watching, simple.

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