United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) communication specialist, Mr. Geoffery Njoku, has said more than 100,000 Nigerian children less than five years of age die each year due to water-borne diseases.
Njoku, who works with UNICEF Kano Field Office, said the figures was according to the European Union (EU) report which indicated that diseases like diarrhoea was responsible for 90 per cent of the death due to unsafe water and sanitation.
“The lack of WASH facilities in schools is of serious concern as children who do not have access to water are most likely to lose interest in pursuing learning opportunities. Because they are forced to spend more time in search for water during school hours or stay out of school to recover from illness caused by frequent episodes of diarrhoea.
“Access to clean drinking water is a human right – just like the right to food and the right to live without torture and racial discrimination,” Njoku said.
He explained that data from the WASH National Outcome Routine Mapping (WASH NORM) showed that 47 million Nigerians practised open defecation, and only 11 per cent have access to complete basic water, sanitation and hygiene services.
Njoku added that only 13 per cent of schools have access to basic water and sanitation services.
“Ending open defecation and making water, sanitation, and hygiene services available to all Nigerians is one of the biggest challenges as construction and management of facilities requires sustained investments and more partnerships, especially with the private sector.
“The Nigeria Government should invest three times more in the water sector, making sure that every Nigerian has access to clean water and a toilet as the lack of access to water is impacting their well-being, especially the most vulnerable.
“The EU, through UNICEF, is supporting the Government of Nigeria to achieve the objectives of the national campaign on an open defecation-free Nigeria launched last year and the state of emergency declared on the WASH sector by the President (Muhammadu Buhari) in 2018,” he said.
The statement added that about one million people in six local government areas of Jigawa and Kano states would benefit from improved access to safe water and sanitation facilities provided by the UNICEF in those areas. The areas include Madobi, Takai, Gaya and Kabo local government areas of Kano State.
He pointed out that EU has funded programmes supporting WASH projects in urban and rural areas through the provision of water schemes, technical assistance and capacity development to sector institutions and agencies responsible.
The statement noted that EU has also been supporting to ensure improved access to safe water, adequate sanitation and hygiene services in communities.
“The EU has invested more than 250 million Euros in the Nigerian water sector, aimed at improving the WASH conditions of more than 10 million people in 14 states across the country,” he added.