Access to water: Nigeria ‘leaving no one behind’

The World Water Day is marked on the 22rd of March every year. In this report JOHN OBA looks at the giant stride the country has made in its bid to make water more accessible to Nigerians.

The World Water Day is a day set aside by the United Nations to highlight the importance of freshwater to humans around the world. The day is also used to advocate for sustainable management of freshwater resources.

The 2019 celebration with the theme ‘Leaving no one behind,’ is the central promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It is anchored on the premise that everyone should be a beneficiary as the society develops.

Many say the crafters of this year’s theme had Nigeria in mind especially with the current efforts by the Muhammadu Buhari led administration to ensure that no community is without portable water.

Over the years, stakeholders across Nigeria’s water sector have been lamenting the gloomy state water and sanitation in the country.

Gloomy reports

WaterAid Nigeria and the Foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta (PIND) in their message for the year called for stronger protections against overuse and misuse of water supply and the acceleration of efforts in the provision of sustainable WASH services for all in order to reach everyone and ensure no one is left behind.

Both organisation in a statement signed by WaterAid Nigeria, Communications and Media Manager, Oluseyi Abdulmalik, said “clean, accessible water for all is an essential part of the world we want to live in and should be normal for everyone, everywhere.”

She noted that regrettably, the progress made since 2000 in delivering clean water to 1.5 billion people globally is now under threat.

“In its 2019  State of the World’s Water report, ‘Beneath the Surface’, WaterAid warns that the human right to water must take priority ahead of other competing demands otherwise we will be leaving unserved populations behind in the race to get clean water to everyone, everywhere by 2030.

“Unsustainable production of products for export, combined with consumers’ increasing desire for water-intensive products, may leave poor communities struggling to access clean water. While exports of food and goods are important sources of income, production must be made sustainable, and industrial and agricultural use of water should not be prioritised over people’s ability to get water for their basic needs,” she explained.

Statistics has it that globally 844 million people which is one in nine persons do not have clean water close to their home. 2.3 billion people in the world — almost one in three – do not have a decent toilet of their own. While around 289,000 children under-  five years old die every year from diarrhea, a diseases caused by poor water and sanitation. That is almost 800 children a day or one child every two minutes.

In Nigeria, 67 per cent of the population does not have basic sanitation; 26 per cent practice open defecation; 33 per cent of the population are without clean water while 87 per cent do not have basic hygiene facilities and Around 60,000 children under the age of five in Nigeria die from diseases caused by the nation’s poor levels of access to water, sanitation and hygiene.

Sub-Saharan Africa ranks lowest in the world for access to improved drinking water and sanitation. This is linked to the region’s under-five mortality rate which is one of the highest in the world.

Stakeholders message

Country Director, WaterAid Nigeria, Dr Chichi Aniagolu-Okoye, said it saddening to know that most of the people affected live in hard-to-reach communities –riverine, uphill and interior areas that account for a significant percentage of the country’s total population.

“This year’s World Water Day theme ‘leaving no one behind’ could not have been more apt in recognising the reality that marginalised groups – women, children, refugees, indigenous peoples, people with disabilities and the elderly – are often overlooked, and sometimes face discrimination in their quest to access and manage the clean water they need to live daily.

“Poor access to clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene simply means lost education, lost opportunities and hundreds of lost lives each year. We cannot let this happen as a country. We must act now and ensure that we protect our precious water supplies for the future, and that we reach everyone with these basic needs, leaving no one behind. This World Water Day, we are more determined than ever to make clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene normal for everyone everywhere, by 2030,” she said.

Also Executive Director, Foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta (PIND), Dr Dara Akala, said, “The severity of water, sanitation and hygiene needs in Nigeria’s Niger Delta cuts across communities and institutions in urban, peri-urban and rural settings, with largely dysfunctional and non-existent WASH facilities, and polluted water sources. This contributes very highly to WASH related disease burden with consequent health, economic and education impacts.

“Unequal access to water fuelled by a growing demand on water resources and the impact of climate and population changes, traps people in poverty and limits potential,” he lamented.

He further said that the push for economic development must not imperil current and future generations’ access to water. “Unless everyone has access to clean water, there can be no sustainable economic development,” he added.

Government efforts

Despite all the challenges and gloominess in the sector, efforts of the current administration and particularly the minister of Water Resources, Engr. Suleiman Adamu in the sector cannot be wished away.

Under his leadership the ministry of water resources has embarked on a number of policies, programmes and projects geared towards the development of the sector in order to enhance the livelihood of the people and guarantee the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)

The government embarked on programmes and projects to provide accelerated access to safe drinking water in rural areas. The government also provided thousands of borehole water supply scheme in rural communities through it Water Intervention Programmes. This is in addition to the provision of sanitation facilities in Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) Camp with the aim of making Nigeria open defecation free by 2025.

State of emergency

On 8th November 2018, at the State House, President Muhammad Buhari declared a state of emergency in the Nigeria Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector with the aim of reducing the high prevalence of water-borne diseases in different parts of the country.

The president therefore directed government at all levels to redouble their efforts and work towards meeting the nation’s water supply and sanitation needs.


Running along with the president’s directive, the federal ministry of Water Resources designed the Partnership for Expanded Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (PEWASH), a multi-sectored collaborative platform that brought governments at all levels together to scale-up access to water supply, sanitation and hygiene in rural area.

After the 2018 world water day, the ministry according to the minister went back to the drawing board to re-strategies so that no one would be left behind and as the 2019 celebration came on board, and in order to encourage actualisation of this year’s theme, (“Leaving No One Behind,) the ministry of water resources provided three boreholes in Sabon-Piko Community in Bwari area council; Chika Lugbe Community along Airport road and Aso Community in Mararaba, Nasarawa State.

Worried by the slow pace of progress achieved since the launch of the Open defecation free roadmap in 2016, the minister further launched a portal to end the menace in Nigeria by 2025.

The portal,, otherwise known as the Open Defecation Free (ODF) website, is to serve as link to the public and monitoring mechanism on progress made to end the menace.

Adamu, while launching the portal in Abuja on Friday disclosed that the initiative was in line with the SDG 6 aimed at ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030.

“This is part of the conclusions for the just concluded National retreat with the key stakeholders held on 14th and 15th March, 2019. The retreat provided States and key stakeholders the opportunity to review Nigeria’s proposal for the campaign,” the Minister stated.

He added that the ODF would create awareness and sensitize the general public on the activities of the clean Nigeria programme.

“The is the official website for the National campaign to end open defecation.

It is one of the campaigns that “visualise information for advocacy and communication,” Adamu noted.

At the launch of the national strategy on the implementation of Village Level Operation and Maintenance (VLOM), Adamu urged states and local governments to key into the initiative as a matter of urgency, adding that the national VLOM of rural water supply facilities has been prepared as part of the sustainability efforts on access to adequately and equitable supply of safe drinking water in rural areas. He called on state government to own the project.

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