Why Ending Water Poverty is Essential for Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in Nigeria

Did you know that access to clean, safe, affordable, sufficient, and acceptable water for personal and domestic uses is the right of all Nigerians due to the country’s membership of the United Nations Declaration of the Right to Water? According to the 2018 Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey, 66.9 percent of households do not have access to water on their premises with 54.1 percent getting water from distances of less than30 minutes per trip and 12.8 percent travelling more than 30 minutes per trip to get water. Furthermore, the amount and quality of water per individual is about 9 litres per day, while the acceptable range is between 12 and 16 litres per day.

Despite Nigeria’s access to surface water – about 215 cubic kilometres per year compared to South Africa’s 49 cubic kilometres – the majority of the population are experiencing a water crisis and water quality problem. According to the 2016/2017 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, 90.8 percent of households in Nigeria lack access to potable water. This is because of unequal distribution and access to clean water due to inadequate infrastructure. The majority of the water consumed by households are contaminated with the E coli bacteria, which can cause illness as the water are transferred from tanker trucks and unprotected wells. At other times contamination occurs where the water is stored.

Forty percent of Nigeria’s 200 million population live below the poverty line and access to water for communal and drinking purposes is often a luxury. Many poor households must depend on rainwater and local truck pushers for household chores while resorting to water sold in sachet called ‘pure water’ for drinking. This is because of the inability of the government to provide the needed water infrastructure for the people. Annually, the country’s population grows by 6 million and with no deliberate effort by the government to provide the needed infrastructure, the access to water deficit increases.

In 2016, UNICEF Nigeria partnered with the Federal Ministry of Water Resources to launch the Clean Nigeria 2025 roadmap to provide improved access to water and sanitation services to Nigeria’s 774 local government areas. The roadmap provided a guide to achieve an end to open defecation by focusing on technology, capacity development and community lead advocacy while working with the government and private sector to provide water and sanitation to all Nigerians. With less than three years to 2025, only 38 LGAs are open defecation free in Nigeria.

The onset of the COVID19 pandemic and the requirement for proper handwashing further highlights the importance of ending water poverty to meet Sustainable Development Goals. There have been efforts by private sector organizations and development partners to improve service delivery concerning bridging the access gap, but progress has been slow. A lack of access to water can lead to a decrease in school enrolment rates, the spread of communicable diseases, farmers being unable to cultivate food and often violent conflict.