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Water crisis spells doom for Nigerians – Experts

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Water crisis spells doom for Nigerians – Experts


Experts have warned that water crisis can increase incidence of diseases like cholera and typhoid fever; they urge government to stop relying on donor agencies to fund its water projects, Bukola Adebayo writes.

Water, essential to life and health, is becoming a scarce commodity in Nigeria.

Many households in rural areas still depend on water from streams, rivers, untreated wells and even rainwater for their cooking, drinking, and to have their baths. Gone were the days when people could get water from taps in their homes.

The 2009 United Nations Children’s Funds Report on Integrated Development and Growth in Nigeria estimates that 64 million Nigerians don’t have access to improved drinking water sources and noted that the figure could be higher, as many of the rural water supply systems are non-functioning.

Water crisis is not only a challenge in rural areas; the urban population has also given up on government’s promises to provide water for her citizens.

Many Nigerians source for water themselves. In fact, in a cosmopolitan city like Lagos, it is a thriving commercial business.

A household that don’t have a well, borehole or pipe-borne water would spend an average of N5OO daily to get water from vendors.

Depending on the terrain, sachet water, popularly called “pure water” which is accepted as a source of drinking water is sold between N80 and N200 per bag.

For a country where her citizens live on less than a dollar a day income, this is expensive.

The rapid growth in the Nigerian population has not translated to increased access to water supply and other amenities.

Lack of accurate data, inconsistent assessment and poor evaluation of policies, have made it impossible to determine whether Nigeria is making progress to meet its Millennium Development Goals in the provision of water for her citizens.

Although the Ministry of Water Resources in 2005 said access to water supply increased from 65 per cent in 2004 to 68 per cent, a review done in the same year by the World Health Organisation revealed that access to improved drinking water was still at 48 per cent.

Experts have said that there is a direct link between access to water supply and increase in incidence of water-borne diseases, diarrhoea infections, and deaths in many households and even health facilities in the country.

According to a public health analyst with the World Health Organisation in Nigeria, Dr. Tolu Arowolo, for a country that has an estimated population of over 150 million people and still counting, consistent water shortages is a public health disaster.

Arowolo said that 80 per cent of cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery, trachoma, tinea, filariasis like guinea-worm, schistosomiasis and typhoid infections in patients were due to water scarcity.

She noted that many primary health centres and tertiary health institutions still lacked access to sufficient water to cater for their patients and facilities.

Arowolo noted that water crisis in the country had triggered epidemics and disease outbreaks in many communities, as diseases that had previously been controlled always re-emerged in these geographical areas.

“It is difficult to control cholera infections, communicable diseases and re-emergence of diseases in a state, community or country that suffers water crisis. In fact adequate water supply is basic for good sanitary condition and personal hygiene in any primary health centre. How can we prevent diseases, if Nigerians still drink rain water or do not even have at all,” she asked.

She said government had continued to assure of increased access to water for drinking, domestic and sanitary use, but her citizens still lack facilities that could provide water to their homes.

She said that water infrastructure in the country had suffered from years of poor operation and maintenance, inefficient institutions, unsustainable public sector spending, and persistent implementation failure.

Arowolo, who is also the WHO South West coordinator of Primary Health Services in the country, said to meet the 2015 MDGs, which were aimed at increasing access to water in developing countries to 80 per cent, there should be a water source in every 500 metre distance.

The report also stated that only 48 per cent of households have access to improved drinking water sources, while access to adequate sanitation facilities remains low.

The poor situation with respect to water and sanitation contributes to high morbidity and mortality among children. Nigeria still needs more support.

Also, the South-West Coordinator of the Network of Water and Sanitation in Nigeria, Mr. Johnson Akpan, said that apart from increasing the incidence of disease, scarcity of water had also increased sanitation and socio- economic problems in the country.

Akpan, who is also an environmental scientist, said that any home that lacked access to pipe borne water would fall short of the acceptable standard for sewage disposal and personal hygiene to the environment.

“The environment is polluted and spreading diseases. People would continue to defecate in bushes, corners and even open surroundings if they do not have water in the home. If you are buying water with limited resources to cook and drink, it will be difficult for you to buy water to flush your toilet when you have obvious options. In the village it is worse, people defecate in open streams and rivers that others drink from.”

Akpan lamented that government had since neglected its responsibility of providing the most basic social amenity for its citizens and now relied on funds from donor agencies to implement water projects.

He said, “It is disheartening that UNICEF is more concerned about providing water for Nigerians than its government.”

However, Akpan said government should address the issue of climate change if it was serious about tackling water challenge in the country.

He said that climate change, which had globally affected ground water distribution, had increased the cost of channeling water from rivers, wells and other natural sources.

“Climate change has affected underground water source. Many residents have to spend more money to dig wells and boreholes because it takes a longer time to reach the water table these days than before, since most homes now make use of ground water. Water sources are getting more restricted.”

He said the Federal Government had a national Water Provision Policy, adding that many states in Nigeria were yet to adopt these policies which could help them attract grants and aids from international agencies working on water projects.

He said, “State governments have to adopt the Federal Government policy and organise their water supply framework. Donor agencies, which seem to be the apparent organisations interested in water provision for developing countries, would not work with any state if it does not have this framework.”

According to him, only six states namely Benue, Osun, Kaduna, Ogun, Enugu and Lagos have adopted the framework and are benefitting from capital intensive water community projects. - Nigerian news, Lifestyle news, naija, Nigeria, West Africa

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Updated 7 Years ago

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