Photo: Dr. Jane Bevan, UNICEF Nigeria Chief of WASH
As World leaders and relevant organizations convene for the UN 2023 Water Conference, I am calling for urgent action to address the water crisis in Nigeria.
78 million children in Nigeria are at the highest risk from a convergence of three water-related threats – inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH); related diseases; and climate hazards – according to a new UNICEF analysis.
In Nigeria, one-third of children do not have access to at least basic water at home, and two-thirds do not have basic sanitation services. Hand hygiene is also limited, with three-quarters of children unable to wash their hands due to lack of water and soap at home. As a result, Nigeria is one of the 10 countries that carry the heaviest burden of child deaths from diseases caused by inadequate WASH, such as diarrhoeal diseases.
Nigeria also ranks second out of 163 countries globally with the highest risk of exposure to climate and environmental threats. Groundwater levels are also dropping, requiring some communities to dig wells twice as deep as just a decade ago. At the same time, rainfall has become more erratic and intense, leading to floods that contaminate scarce water supplies.
I believe we need to rapidly scale-up investment in the sector, including from global climate financing, strengthen climate resilience in the WASH sector and communities, increase effective and accountable systems, coordination, and capacities to provide water and sanitation services, and implement the UN-Water SDG6 Global Acceleration Framework.
If we continue at the current pace, it will take 16 years to achieve access to safe water for all in Nigeria. We cannot wait that long, and the time to move quickly is now. Investing in climate-resilient water, sanitation, and hygiene services is not only a matter of protecting children’s health today, but also ensuring a sustainable future for generations to come.