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Nigerians and access to safe water

The saying that water is life holds true for every society. In fact, life on earth will cease to exist in the absence of water. That is why the resource always takes the pride of place in the development templates of governments all over the world. The usefulness of water is made more imperative by that fact that it covers 70 percent of the earth’s surface. Unfortunately, the provision of potable water to Nigerians has not received the attention and urgency it deserves by successive administrations in the country. Such lack of investment in this critical resource has continued to impact negatively on the lives of ordinary Nigerians.
According to United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), more than 66 million Nigerians lack access to safe water, while 110 million do not have improved sanitation. Consequently, about 150,000 children under the age of five die annually from diarrhea related diseases that are mostly traceable to unsafe drinking water. The situation is more even more depressing in the rural areas where polluted ponds and stream water remain, the only sources of water for drinking and other household chores.
Statistics from the World Health Organisation reveal that Nigerians will continue to suffer grave health hazards because of water-related problems. It is a common sight in our urban centres to see women, girls and boys with containers searching for water every day.
Even where water is available, the supply is often erratic and sometimes contaminated because it is piped through a network of old, rusty and unhygienic drainages that contain high proportions of carcinogenic metal, and bacteria. Embarrassingly, most of our public health institutions lack basic running water for washing after minor procedures, sanitation and hygiene.
Probably, to solve this water shortage, governments, corporate bodies and individuals are resorting to boreholes. However, studies show that more than 50 percent of these boreholes are either spoilt or contaminated due to lack of maintenance. It bears repeating that the access to potable water is a fundamental right of the citizens. The is even more important because the United Nations Organisation declared the year 2015 for achieving the Millennium Development Goals’ (MDG) target of 75 per cent coverage for access to safe drinking water by the citizens.
Sadly, not only has Nigeria failed in this regard; the country ranks very low on the list of those with high population density without access to potable water. This is evident in frequent reports of outbreak of cholera that has killed many people, particularly children, across the nation. Experts say that unsafe water has serious implications on hygiene, child mortality, poverty, hunger, maternal health and diseases. We have to restate that the water situation will continue to deteriorate as more and more people migrate from the rural areas to cities.
Moreover, due to rapid urbanisation, increased industrialisation and improving living standards there will be increased demand for water in the near future.  It is therefore imperative that governments devise creative ways of solving this conundrum. This they can do through the installation of several small water stations in both urban and rural areas rather than planning for the building of giant water reservoirs that take longer time span to construct. Small water plants are not only cost effective, they would go a long way in taking care of citizens drinking and sanitation needs.      If every local government area builds mini waterworks on regular basis, it would provide a huge relief for our teeming population.
There is no gainsaying the fact that without water, sanitation and hygiene, it is difficult, if not impossible, to have sustainable development. Governments should therefore invest more on water to save the lives of the people.

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