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Water and sanitation in Nigeria’s rural areas

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By Timothy Akintola

The challenges and opportunities of WASH services in Nigeria.

Lack of access to improved water supply and proper sanitation continues to hugely contribute to the morbidity rate especially in the rural communities in Nigeria. These areas are so exposed to contaminated water and a generally polluted environment that increasingly makes them vulnerable and at a high risk of contacting different diseases. In fact, statistics illustrate that at least 39 percent of the total Nigerian population lack access to an improved water supply. As of 2019, World Bank asserted that approximately 60 million of Nigerians had been living without access to basic drinking water and 80 million without access to improved sanitation.

While performing some project monitoring exercise within some communities in the Federal Capital Territory, one evident issue that was detected was that of lack of access to water and sanitation and this problem being prevalent in the country’s capital, there are many reasons that other rural communities around the country would be worse. Statistics also show that this prevalence have led to an increase in the mortality rate among children under five years old, increasing their vulnerability ratio and leading to the diseases like diarrhea and death of approximately 70,000 (under the age of five) children annually.

Numerous factors militate against access to WASH services in rural areas.

At least 70 percent of the recorded diarrhea disease burdens in these rural communities have been connected to the inaccessibility to adequate supply of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). These WASH related illness have also had adverse effects on children like absenteeism in schools and malnutrition. UNICEF recorded that only 26.5 percent of Nigeria’s population have access to improved water sources and enhanced sanitation facilities. A recent survey also indicated that 23.5 percent of the country’s populace lack access to the use of proper toilets, thus defecating in open spaces.

The Federal Government, in collaboration with organizations like UNICEF, UNDP, World Bank, WHO and a host of other non-government organizations have and continue to make efforts towards ensuring that every community boasts of an enhanced access to improved water supply and sanitary services. However, there are a plethora of factors that have militated against the rural communities in this situation, such as infrastructural underdevelopment. The poor infrastructural development in these communities have continuously caused the inaccessibility to improved water supply and enhanced sanitation. The low budget allocation to operations of these government-owned water and sanitation service providers have inevitably led to erratic operations.

Corruption in WASH services sector have mitigated its operational services.

While the government plays an immense role in the improvement of these services, corruption in the water and sanitation services sector have immensely caused a mitigation of these operational services in rural and even urban communities. Corruption within these sectors evidently project itself in the mismanagement of allocated funds for facility maintenance, general operations and staff remuneration. The role of proper information in salvaging the problem of water and sanitation however cannot be downplayed. Numerous rural and even urban residents are less informed about the consequences of inadequate sanitation and unclean water usage. Mass sensitization on proper sanitation will go a long way.

Though the government has a huge responsibility in ensuring adequate WASH services across the country, citizens have also contributed to the deteriorating situation. Numerous facility constructors make zero efforts towards curbing this problem. Many public health centers in the country have no access to proper water supply but rather depend on rain or water peddlers. These centers also lack proper waste disposal tools and rather expose refuse openly. This problem is evident in both urban and rural communities.

People oriented water and sanitation policies must be enhanced.

However, envisaging some recommendations is crucial. One is the gathering of specific population data and analysis to help with the proper allocation of budget for access to improved water supply and proper sanitation services across the country. The government policy must be comprehensive and encompassing to both the rural and urban communities. Government must also make available, sufficient funds to facilitate the availability of these services, as well as enhancing people oriented water and sanitation policies. Facility inspectors must also effectively inspect buildings to ensure the availability of adequate water and sanitation infrastructures.

Related Links:

World Bank: Website

UNICEF: Website

USAID: Website

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