Water is one of the top most necessities of life, but over 57 million Nigerians still lack access to portable water. An estimated 90.8 per cent of Nigerians population lack access to portable water and have to make do with water contaminated by faeces and other impure substances resulting to water-borne diseases. AJUMA EDWINA OGIRI analyses the water situation in Nigeria, as well as the dangers of drinking contaminated water.
The World Health Organisation (WHO), recently warned that two billion people are drinking water contaminated with faeces, and 3.4 million people die annually as a result of water borne diseases, associated with inadequate provision of drinking water and sanitation.
Nigeria constitutes a significant percentage of this two billion people, as an overwhelming majority of 163 million households drink water contaminated by faeces and E.Coli, according to a recently released Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
Also, over 57 million Nigerians still lack access to portable water, drinking water from rivers, lakes, ponds, streams and irrigation canals, according to the United Nation Children’s Fund, (UNICEF). Statistics has also shown that about 130,000 Nigerian children die annually as a result of water-related infections.
Causes of contaminated water
A UNICEF Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) specialist, Moustapha Niang, said that more than half of the 57 million Nigerians that lack access to portable water supply, live in rural areas.
“There are cases of faecal contamination some months after boreholes are drilled and in use. There are cases of nitrate contamination also, due to seepage from nearby latrines and the use of fertilizers and pesticides for agricultural purposes.
“Bayelsa is particularly plagued with iron and manganese contamination, and this brings about esthatic issues which can lead to rejection of the water.”
According to him, “Of this percentage, the Niger Delta region make up only 16.57 per cent; 32 million of the 190 million population, with access to improved water supply, with Akwa Ibom having 76.3 per cent, Bayelsa 27.5 per cent, Delta 75.1 per cent, Edo 73.2 per cent, and Rivers 86.4 per cent of the 57.48 per cent national average.
“Though with good access to improved water supply in the Niger Delta region, with all the states apart from Bayelsa having values above the National average, there is a serious issue of groundwater contamination; either biological or chemical. Some parts have problems of iron and manganese contamination, especially Bayelsa state.”
Dangers of contaminated water
Director of Department of Public Health, Environment and Social Determinants of Health, WHO, Dr Maria Neira, said in a statement that contaminated water puts people at risk of contracting cholera, dysentery and typhoid.
Neira also said that drinking of contaminated water not only puts people at risk of and polio, but is also a major cause of several neglected tropical diseases, including intestinal worms, schistosomiasis and trachoma as well.
UNICEF reports that Nigeria has made substantive progress in mapping out strategies for water supply and sanitation service delivery, but faces major challenges in translating these strategies into action.
A baseline data for the monitoring of the SDGs targets also released recently by the NBS showed that on the national level, Nigeria has been making slow improvement in the supply of safe water that Nigerians drink.
The survey estimated the population using safely managed drinking water services as 58.5 per cent in 2011, 57.8 per cent in 2012, and 62.2 per cent in 2014.
As at 2015, it was estimated that 69.6 per cent of Nigerians had safe sources of drinking water, but there was a decline from from 69.6 per cent in 2015 to 64.1 per cent in 2016 and 2017, according to MICS data.
The levels of safely treated water have been low and the 2011 MICS puts it at 0.04 per cent in 2011 and 0.09 per cent in 2012. The volume safely treated water reduced considerably from 2013 to 2015.
UNICEF WASH specialist advised that it is imperative for the three tiers of governments to put more effort to ensure accessibility to portable water supply, or the nation will not be able to meet the SDGs Goal 6 by 2030, which aims at ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
“Accessibility to safe water can save the lives of most under five children that die annually from preventable diseases, as most of the diseases are caused by poor access to water.
“We need to do 20 times more of what we are currently doing in terms of policies and funding in providing safe water to the people.
“For example, in 1999, 12 per cent of the population had pipe access to their homes. But this percentage declined to two percent as at 2015,” he explained.
This is an indication that Nigeria has a long way to go if she hopes to meet the Goal Eight of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which targets to “Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.”
Niang, in his presentation, ‘Water, supply and quality in the Niger Delta’, emphasised on the need for proper orientation of the rural populace to adopt attitude change and embrace water safe plan, from water source, storage to point of use.
He urged government at all levels to ensure provision of public toilet in public facilities as a means to discourage open defecation and consequences associated with it.
Niang also recommended constant monitoring of water quality to detect contamination, while encouraging the establishment of a water sanitation committee in all communities across the region.
“Prioritise the potential hazards and mitigate such hazards through the entire water chain to ensure that water reaching the consumer is safe and acceptable.
“Develop their community plan. Avoid for citing portable water source around nearby latrines and areas fertilised for agricultural purposes,” he advised.