The United Nations Children’s Fund has said that 78 million children in Nigeria were exposed to the highest risk from a convergence of three water-related threats.
UNICEF Nigeria Chief of WASH, Dr Jane Bevan made this known on Monday in a press statement available to The PUNCH.
The statement released ahead of the UN 2023 Water Conference in New York, from March 22-24, 2023, and to be co-hosted by Tajikistan and the Netherlands, called for urgent action to address water crisis in Nigeria.
The UN 2023 Water Conference, formally known as the 2023 Conference for Mid-term Comprehensive Review of Implementation of the UN Decade for Action on Water and Sanitation (2018-2028), will result in a summary of proceedings from the UNGA President, Csaba Korosi, that will feed into the 2023 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.
“Seventy eight million children in Nigeria are at the highest risk from a convergence of three water-related threats – inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene; 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,” Dr Bevan said.
Bevan emphasised the 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 SDG six 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,” she added.