WaterAid targets 17m more Nigerians with new WASH strategy
*As 82% of citizens lack basic hygiene
*Nigeria tops global open defecation rate with 48m still defecating in the open
WaterAid, a not-for-profit international organization says it hopes to reach 17 million more Nigerians with safe, sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene in the next five years through the implementation of its new strategy – 2023-2028.
This is even as the organisation disclosed that with only seven years left to reach the 2030 SDG 6 milestone which promises the attainment of universal access to WASH for everyone, 33 percent of Nigerians still lack access to basic water, 54 percent lack basic sanitation and 82 percent lack basic hygiene services.
“Just recently Nigeria overtook India to become the country with the highest open defecation rate in the world, with 48 million still defecating in the open,” said Country Director of WaterAid Nigeria, Evelyn Mere, in her welcome address at the launch of the strategy in Abuja yesterday.
The new strategy which was launched by the Minister of Water Resources, Engr. Suleiman Adamu is aimed at accelerating progress towards the attainment of Sustainable Development Goal 6 in Nigeria.
Mere said in the new strategy, WaterAid targets reaching at least 10 million more Nigerians with clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene by 2028.
According to her, “Working collaboratively with the government of Nigeria and other key partners in development, media, academia, private sector and civil society space, WaterAid further seeks to influence improved basic Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) access to 17 million more people.”
She informed me that WaterAid has two aims for the next five years. According to her, “One, to demonstrate and influence wider change by achieving universal, sustainable and safe access in focused geographic areas; and second, to strengthen the resilience of WASH to climate change because the impact of climate change manifests mainly through water -either too much of it through issues such as flooding or too little through draughts caused by drying up of the water source.
“WaterAid Nigeria is about to embark on a journey that will among other things ensure that every woman or girl can improve their productivity, realise their rights to a good education and live free of the risk of gender-based violence and that high rates of maternal and infant mortality due to poor WASH become a distant memory.”
She said over the past 27 years, WaterAid has provided support to the federal government of Nigeria, playing key roles in service delivery, capacity building, improving sector coordination, governance and monitoring, supporting the government’s Clean Nigeria Campaign targeted at ending open defecation as well as supporting policy formulation at the National and at some states to address gaps in the sector.
Speaking further, the Country Director said, “In the last strategy phase which ended in 2021, some progress has been made, facilitated by political will at the federal level, however, progress has remained slow with Nigeria falling behind in ensuring its citizens, especially those in poor communities can live comfortably with access to these essential services.
“WaterAid believes this crisis has disproportionately affected women and girls in poor communities who bear the greater burden of searching for water, thereby missing out on education and productive ventures.”
She called on the government and other stakeholders to prioritize WASH in their programming and budgets, noting that “WASH is the foundation on which we can build a healthy, productive and prosperous society.
“We must ensure that WASH is prioritized and funding provided at the scale needed to deliver universal access for everyone, everywhere.”
In his keynote address, Minister of Water Resources, Engr. Suleiman Adamu, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Mrs Ester Didi, commended WaterAid for the support and the cordial working relationship it is having with the Ministry.
He said the government was determined to ensure that everyone Nigerian has access to water, sanitation and hygiene.
According to him, “It was in view of the government’s commitment that we developed the National Action Plan for WASH and also declared a state of emergency on open defecation.”