By Ndidi Chukwu
As Nigeria joins the rest of the world to commemorate World Water Day on 22nd March, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has said about 2.5 million people gained access to safe water in rural areas in Nigeria. A press statement made available to Health Reporters by its Media, Communications and External Relations Officer, Geoffery Njoku said, “Some 2.3 billion people have gained access to improved sources of drinking water since 1990. As a result, the Millennium Development Goal target of halving the percentage of the global population without access was met in 2010”
In the case of Sanitation, it said nearly 2.5 billion people worldwide still do not have adequate toilets and among them 1 billion defecate in the open. With some 70 million people without access to safe water and over 110 million people without access to improved sanitation, as it observed that “Nigeria is currently not on-track with regard to its attainment of Water and Sanitation targets”
The poor bears the greatest brunt of this lack of access to water and sanitation. For women and girls, collecting water cuts into time they can spend caring for families and studying. In insecure areas, it also puts them at risk of violence and attack. UNICEF estimates that in Africa alone, people spend 40 billion hours every year 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 diarrhoeal diseases linked to unsafe drinking water, poor sanitation, or poor hygiene.
This year’s theme on World Water Day is “Water and Sustainable Development”.
UNICEF said “The theme aptly encapsulates the overarching role of water in our lives, be it for human consumption, food production, for health, for power generation, for industry and for the sustenance of nature as a whole, without which life would not exist”
“This year’s theme highlights the importance of water to our existence and emphasizes the need to look at the holistic development of the water sector, reduce water wastage and prevent contamination of this increasingly scarce resources”
“Everyone, be it the government, the civil society, international development partners and the citizens including children have a critical role to play in ensuring that water is sustainably used and is available for generations to come” said Kannan Nadar, Chief, Water and Sanitation, UNICEF.
UNICEF has been working with the Federal Ministry of Water Resources as well as the state governments to promote use of sustainable approaches and technologies for water abstraction and use. In the last two years nearly 2.5 million people gained access to safe water in rural areas through UNICEF support that also included funding from EU and UKAid. UNICEF-supported ‘WASH in Schools’ programming has also brought safe water, sanitation and hygiene facilities to thousands of school children in Nigeria.