World Water Day: In Nigeria, the thirst continues!

AS the world celebrates the 2024 World Water Day on Friday, most Nigerians are still grappling with severe cases of water scarcity, especially in the rural areas. With over 60 per cent of the country covered in water, it is shocking that the country still grapples with severe water issues. Government at all levels should implement measures to increase access to potable water.

In the vast expanse of Nigeria, a necessity continues to elude millions of its citizens: potable water. Consequently, the 2024 World Water Day, with the theme, ‘Water for Peace,’ holds deep significance for Nigeria, where bandits and terrorists have displaced thousands and turned them to refugees in their own land. People in this category do not have access to clean water for their daily needs.

Water holds a pivotal role in fostering peace, prosperity, and conflict prevention, but in Nigeria, this is a pipe dream. According to Macrotrends, in 2016 only 20.60 per cent of Nigerians had access to clean water. It rose to around 21.67 per cent in 2020.

Access to clean water in this case means the percentage of people using drinking water from an improved source that is accessible on premises, available when needed, and free from faecal and priority chemical contamination. Improved water sources include piped water, boreholes or tubewells, protected dug wells, protected springs, and packaged or delivered water.

In 2018, Nigeria’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene sector was declared to be in a state of emergency and approximately 60 million Nigerians were living without access to drinking water.

Women and girls suffer disproportionately from the lack of adequate WASH services. They bear the burden of water collection over long distances, which has been associated with negative effects on well-being, school attendance, and a higher risk of gender-based violence.

Despite being a vital component of human survival and development, access to clean water remains a distant dream for many Nigerians, with far-reaching consequences for public health, economic productivity, and social well-being.

The scarcity of potable drinking water in Nigeria is a multifaceted problem rooted in a combination of factors, including inadequate infrastructure, poor governance, rapid urbanisation, and environmental degradation. Across both rural and urban areas, communities grapple with unreliable or non-existent water supply systems, forcing residents to resort to unsafe alternatives such as untreated surface water, contaminated wells, or expensive bottled water.

As a result, millions of Nigerians are exposed to waterborne diseases such as cholera, typhoid fever, and diarrhoea.

While urban centres may have relatively better access to piped water systems, rural communities often rely on unprotected wells or surface water sources, prone to human and industrial waste contamination. Inadequate sanitation facilities further compound the problem, contributing to the spread of waterborne illnesses and perpetuating a cycle of poverty and ill health.

UNESCO has set a target for countries to ensure universal access to clean water and sanitation by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals. However, Nigeria is lagging in meeting this goal, with progress hampered by systemic challenges such as corruption, mismanagement of resources, and insufficient investment in water infrastructure.

The consequences of water scarcity extend beyond public health, affecting various aspects of life in Nigeria. Inadequate access to clean water hampers economic productivity, particularly in sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing, and tourism, where water is essential for irrigation, production processes, and hygiene.

To effectively address the scarcity of potable drinking water in Nigeria, concerted efforts are needed at both the national and local levels. The government must prioritise water supply and sanitation infrastructure development, allocate adequate resources to the sector, and enhance transparency and accountability in water management. Investments in technologies such as water treatment plants, piped water networks, and wastewater treatment facilities are essential to expanding access to clean water and reducing the burden of waterborne diseases.

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