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Published On: Mon, May 12th, 2014

Why Nigeria needs clean water initiatives for improved sanitation

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Nigeria needs clean waterBy Fahad Garba Aliyu

Our dear nation Nigeria has been bedeviled with various problems and has been in the news recently, for all the wrong reasons. Most of them image tarnishing scenarios such as the Kerosene subsidy scam, immigration recruitment stampede, CBN governor’s suspension and the reckless massacre of innocent lives and destruction of properties amongst other mayhems across the nation.

The crises have since translated to serious nightmares which have made all stakeholders to overlook some equally contending issues which are also of national concern but viewed insignificant especially when they don’t affect us or our families directly, such as lack of clean sources of water in rural communities.

We need to change this attitude as individuals, organizations, states or as a nation with a view to handling such matters with utmost concern even as we tackled other national issues. What is important however is the need to put our heads together in resolving problems in our communities before they become bigger for instance, becoming an epidemic.

A problem that is definitely a Nigerian problem is the lack of access to clean water and proper sanitation by majority of our populace. Despite the lingering problem the issue doesn’t get the required attention that it requires at all levels of government. Aside security challenges which have overwhelmed the nation I believe access to clean drinking water is the next debilitating problem that every citizen of this country should be concerned about even if you reside in the city, your people in the village may be at risk.

In my research on the percentage of Nigerian citizens that don’t have access to clean water, I was shocked at discovering how high the rate is. It is therefore our collective responsibility to do the little we can to address this serious problem which poses a threat to the grassroots.

Upon learning about a community in my local government area in Kano, that has not had access to clean water, I decided to visit and assist them in any way that I could. After assessing their dire situation, I bought a product, Procter and Gamble’s “Water Purification Packets, which I have used and can testify that it makes dirty water clean and safe enough to drink. It was truly a remarkable experience for me as it opened my eyes to a serious issue that I knew existed in Nigeria but never knew was this bad in my local government, and many others across most states of the federation, until I saw it with my own eyes. What I saw was unbelievable. The water that was available to my community was so dirty that I couldn’t imagine anyone using it for anything let alone drinking it. Yet, the community is left with no choice because that’s the only water they have access to.

One thing was clear. You don’t have to be extremely rich to make a difference. One P&G water purification packet cost just 10 cents (N16) that can create 10 liters of clean water. From my research, it was deduced that one dollar, $1 (N160) can give a child clean water for 50 days while $7.5 (N1, 212) can provide one child clean water for a year.

As this is a community that I passed any time I was on a visit to my hometown, I became certain that one doesn’t have to look far to see that other communities around this particular community faces similar situation.

I never knew the situation was that critical; until I stopped over in the community and learnt that it has been living, drinking and using the unclean water for decades. This is just one community out of thousands across our nation that do not have access to clean drinking water and proper sanitation. We boast of having the largest economy in Africa but of what good is it if it doesn’t translate to quality standard of living of our citizens?

The children I saw in a stream, a source of water supply to the community, were wonderful and full of life but I cannot but imagine how badly we have failed them. The society has failed them and their government has failed them too. By not providing one of their most basic needs, they are prone to diseases and other health hazards.

The state of people that don’t have access to clean drinking water and people that are at risk of water related diseases is just appalling to say the least. According to statistics, 70 million people don’t have access to clean drinking water in Nigeria, which amounts to 43.75% of our entire population. Over 112 million people don’t have access to adequate sanitation, almost two thirds of our populace while over 97,000 children die every year from diarrhea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation in Nigeria.

We have the resources and means to tackle this problem but we lack the political will to take any action on the matter for the benefit of our people, community and nation as a whole. Therefore, more awareness needs to be raised on the topic of unsafe water, and we as individuals, organizations and governments should in any way we can try to play a part in raising the standard of living in our communities through provision of clean water.

There are foundations and individuals trying to tackle the problem but they don’t have enough funds to do so. We all need to play our part in safeguarding the future of most especially the innocent children in the various communities.

According to a UNDP Human Development report, lack of water, sanitation and hygiene costs Sub-Saharan African countries more in lost GDP than the entire continent gets in development aid. Half the hospital beds in developing countries are filled with people suffering from diseases caused by poor water, sanitation and hygiene. Just imagine if we work towards solving this menace and providing clean water to our citizens, the number of health cases from water borne diseases will drastically reduce but the reality is we don’t even talk about it in the first place let alone proffer solutions to tackle the problem. Reports have also indicated that the Millennium Development Goal to halve the proportion of people living without sanitation by 2015 is running 150 years behind schedule in sub-Saharan Africa.

It is worrisome that sanitation seems not to be taken as priority by the Nigerian government despite the huge health problems it causes for our teeming population. According to UN projections, Nigeria is expected to surpass the United States in population by 2050. The report also predicts we could be the third most populous nation in the world by the end of the century with over 900 million people. If with a population of less than 200 million people, we have these challenges, how on earth are we going to cope with over 900 million by the end of the century?

We must have a feasible plan, will, commitment and determination to effectively effect change. Short-term solutions should be avoided and long-term investments pushed forward. We need to set standards for water and sanitation systems, promote good sanitation and hygiene to communities and schools to ensure lasting changes.

I conclude with these three wonderful sayings. “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do” – Edward Everett Hale

Mother Teresa Said, “Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest to you”.

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honourable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Fahad Garba Aliyu contributed this piece from Kano.

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