Nigerian government takes action against water sanitation crisis

Media Global Voice of the Global South

In 2009, 216,122 pupils in 229 primary schools in Nigeria gained access to improved sanitation and hygiene facilities through government-funded water sanitation projects. (Photo credit: Creative Commons)

Lagos state government met this week to discuss the ban of latrines and illegal locations of petrol filling stations in the urban communities of Nigeria. The Lagos 2010 Sewage and Wastewater Summit was held from March 2 to 4. At the summit, Environment Commissioner Muiz Banire expressed concern that pit latrines contributed to groundwater contamination in the communities that depended on shallow wells for water. He proposed that the 1978 ban on latrines be revisited and reinforced.

According to a report issued by UNICEF in 2009 titled Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene in Nigeria more than 70 million people in Nigeria do not have access to clean water. Furthermore, nearly 100 million people do not have access to latrines or toilets, which results in waterborne diseases like typhoid, guinea worm, cholera, malaria, and diarrhea. This also accounts for the high infant mortality rates associated with diarrheal infections.

Dr. John Egbuta, who is a UNICEF consultant for Preach Water told MediaGlobal, “In the urban areas such as Lagos, more people are resort ing to bore holes and water vendors, which is [sic] usually very expensive, as a way out of the situation, but this is not the same in the rural areas. Due to factors such as global warming, ecological disasters, gully erosions, etcetera, many of the rivers and springs have dried up in the rural areas, thus reducing the access to water sources in many communities.”

While the 2008 UNICEF/WHO joint monitoring programme for water supply and sanitation estimates that 47 percent of the urban population and 30 percent of the rural population now have access to improved drinking water, this number has decreased from the recorded number in 1990. Because of this, Nigeria is not on track to meet its Millenium Development Goal targets for water, sanitation, and hygiene.

The Ecumenical Water Network is a network of churches and church-related organizations that promotes the preservation, responsible management, and equitable distribution of water. A partner of the EWN, the Christian Council of Nigeria, is presently working to advocate for better water policies in Nigeria. Reverend Babatunde Olusegun of the Christian Council of Nigeria told MediaGlobal, “As the world is taking concrete efforts at meeting the United Nations goals of safe water and sanitation by the year 2015, Nigeria is yet to commence any action towards realizing these goals. At the Christian Council of Nigeria level, we therefore advocate that the water ministry should be a separate ministry from agriculture, at the federal and state levels.”

The Lagos Water Corporation (LWC) is working on water improvement projects not only in the urban cities of Lagos, but also in rural communities like Isawo, Iju, and Adiyan. The first phase of this initiative is 15 mini-micro-water works that has the capacity of producing 30 million gallons per day across various rural and urban communities. Paula Fedeski of UNICEF told MediaGlobal, “Sector reform, investment planning, capacity development, and social change activities are specifically being supported to ensure large-scale service delivery. Water and sanitation services are also being provided in primary schools and health clinics.”

The Nigerian government is working frantically to meet the increasing water demands, which is growing three times as fast as the world’s population growth rate. Poor sanitation resulting from the use of latrines is undeniably contributing to contamination of drinking water. However, for people with no other option, latrines are a necessity and the best short-term solution. In many cases, the impoverished are lacking the resources to even build latrines, which results in open defecation and further contamination. Overall, water improvement projects are vital to making clean water accessible to all.