By Franca Ofili
More than one million people in six local government areas of Jigawa and Kano states will benefit from improved access to safe water and sanitation facilities, UNICEF says.
Mr Geoffrey Njoku,, Communication Specialist, UNICEF Nigeria, who made the disclosure in a statement in Abuja on Friday, explained that the access was as a result of the completion of several water and sanitation facilities in the areas.
Njoku said the facilities were built with support from European Union (EU) and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH).
According to him, the facilities will go a long way toward ensuring that people in Nigeria have access to safe WASH services.
”Data from the WASH National Outcome Routine Mapping (WASH NORM) show that 47 million Nigerians practise open defecation.
”Only 11 per cent of Nigerians have access to complete basic water, sanitation and hygiene services and only 13 per cent of schools have access to basic water and sanitation services,” he said.
Njoku said the lack of WASH facilities in schools was of serious concern as children who did not have access to water were most likely to lose interest in education.
He said the reason was because such children were forced to spend more time in search for water during school hours or stay out of school to recover from illnesses caused by frequent episodes of diarrhoea.
He said that more than 100,000 children under five years of age died each year due to water-borne diseases, such as diarrhoea, of which 90 per cent was directly attributed to unsafe water and sanitation.
”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.
”Ending open defecation and making WASH 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,” Njoku said.
He called on the government to invest three times more in the water sector to make sure that every Nigerian had access to clean water and a toilet as the lack of access to water was impacting the wellbeing specially the most vulnerable.
According to him, the EU, through UNICEF, is supporting the government to achieve the objectives of the national campaign on an open defecation free Nigeria launched in 2019 and the state of emergency declared on the WASH sector by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2018.
Njoku said that EU funded WASH projects in urban and rural areas through the provision of water schemes, technical assistance and capacity development to institutions.
He said that the EU had 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. (NAN)