Inadequate access to quality water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services continues to plague Nigeria, contributing to a range of negative health, socioeconomic and environmental consequences, says a new report by Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Water Resources and UNICEF.
Researchers found that one-third of the population drinks contaminated water at home and 46 million people are still practicing open defecation.
In addition, only 9 Percent of the population have access to complete basic WASH services. Those living in rural areas are two times more disadvantaged than those in urban areas.
While Nigeria is making some progress on improving access to WASH services, with 70 percent of Nigerians having access to basic drinking water services, the amount and quality of water for individual use is lower than the required standard.
The average amount of water each person receives in Nigeria is 9 litres per day. The minimum acceptable range is between 12 and 16 litres per day, according to national standards.
At least 167 million homes do not have access to handwashing facilities, which the researchers call “especially worrying in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic”, with handwashing being a critical infection prevention practice.
Researchers also saw disparities in the use of combined basic WASH services across different areas of residence, geopolitical zones and socioeconomic lines. The most significant disparities are related to wealth. The wealthiest households are more than eight times more likely to access basic WASH services than the poorest households.
“The data shows us that there is still more work to be done to ensure that all Nigerians have access to adequate and quality water and hygiene services,” said the minister of water resources Suleiman Adamu.
“While we have made some progress – most notably in the number of households accessing basic water services – we cannot rest on our laurels. We will be looking at our overall strategy, based on these findings, to see how we can strengthen all areas of the water, sanitation and hygiene in Nigeria – including making faster progress in ending open defecation across the country.”
“Access to quality WASH services is a fundamental right and in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, this has proven to be even more crucial,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF representative in Nigeria, when launching the report.
“Today, the importance of adequate and safe water, basic sanitation and proper hand hygiene practices in stemming not only the spread of COVID-19, but also many other preventable illnesses that take the lives of far too many children, cannot be overemphasised.”