By Adedotun Ajayi
Nigeria, like many countries, faces significant challenges related to access to potable water and safety, particularly in rural areas. The country’s growing population, combined with environmental degradation and climate change, has put a strain on water resources and infrastructure.
The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has revealed that 78 million children in Nigeria are at the risk of three water-related threats.
These it listed to include inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), related diseases and climate hazards.
This was contained in a statement issued by UNICEF, Nigeria’s Chief of WASH, Dr. Jane Bevan, which was made available to journalists last week Thursday.
“Hand hygiene is also limited, with three-quarter 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 carries the heaviest burden of child deaths from diseases caused by inadequate WASH, such as diarrhea.”
She said Nigeria also ranks second out of 163 countries globally with the highest risk of exposure to climatic 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 service is not only a matter of protecting children’s health today, but also ensuring a sustainable future for generations to come,” she added.
Meanwhile, ahead of the UN 2023 Water Conference, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has called for accelerated investments to help small-scale farmers in developing countries access and manage increasingly scarce water resources in the face of a changing climate and more extreme weather events.
“There is no food security without water security. Water is indispensable to produce food but small-scale farmers increasingly struggle to access the water they need to grow their crops and feed their animals, leading to human suffering, migration and conflict,” said Jyotsna Puri, IFAD Associate Vice-President, Strategy and Knowledge Department. “Solutions exists, but investments are needed to help millions of small-scale farmers access them.”
About 3.2 billion people overall live in agricultural areas with high to very high water shortages or scarcity of which 1.2 billion people – roughly one-sixth of the world’s population – live in severely water constrained agricultural areas.
While small-scale farmers produce one third of the world’s food and up to 70 percent of the food produced in developing countries, they increasingly face water challenge due to climate change. Since 2000, the number and duration of droughts have increased by 29 percent. Population growth causes an increased demand for water, which is also a key driver of water scarcity.
“The only solution is to make the best use of every single drop. Small water infrastructure, better soil and water management, and natural solutions such as agro-forestry can go a long way in ensuring small-scale farmers have the water they need,” Puri added.
It stated: “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.
In the same Vein, Ayodeji Ayanleye, a public health educator, said it is important to note that while 78 million children being at risk of a water-related crisis is a concerning statistic, it doesn’t necessarily mean that all of those children are currently experiencing a crisis.
According to him; “The statistics rather suggests that they may be at risk of facing a crisis if action is not taken to improve water access and safety.
To address this issue, it will likely require a multi-faceted approach, including investment in water infrastructure, education and awareness campaigns to promote safe water practices, and policies to protect and preserve water resources. Additionally, international aid and partnerships may be necessary to help address this crisis on a larger scale,” he added
A nutritionist, Adedoyin Ifeoluwa, said that unfortunately, many children in Nigeria are at risk of water-related crises due to various factors such as limited access to clean water, poor sanitation practices, and insufficient resources to cope with water-related disasters.
According to him; “One of the main issues is the lack of access to clean water sources. In many areas, the water supply is either limited or contaminated, which increases the risk of waterborne diseases such as cholera, dysentery, and typhoid fever. Children who consume contaminated water are particularly vulnerable to these diseases, which can be life-threatening if left untreated.
Also, poor sanitation practices also contribute to the risk of water-related crises. In many areas, open defecation is common due to a lack of toilets or other sanitary facilities. This can lead to contamination of nearby water sources and further increase the risk of waterborne diseases.
Finally, Nigeria is also prone to water-related disasters such as floods, which can displace families and damage infrastructure. Children who are affected by these disasters may be forced to live in temporary shelters without access to clean water or adequate sanitation facilities, further increasing their vulnerability.
Overall, the water-related crisis in Nigeria poses a significant threat to the health and well-being of children. Addressing this issue will require concerted efforts from government, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector to ensure that all children have access to clean water sources and adequate sanitation facilities,” he noted.
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