The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) had on Sunday said there are 37 countries of that are unsafe for children due to lack of water and Nigeria is one of them.
UNICEF said about 26.5 million children in Nigeria hardly get access to adequate clean water. That figure represents 29 percentage of children in the country best known as the giant of Africa.
In a statement issued to mark the 2021 edition of World Water Day, the flagship UN agency said, “nearly one-third of Nigerian children do not have enough water to meet their daily needs.”
Unicef said Nigeria towers among the global statistics of countries still struggling to provide clean water to it’s a vulnerable population.
It is estimated that one in five children, globally, “does not have enough water to meet their everyday needs.”
Unicef has estimated that “more than 1.42 billion people – including 450 million children – are living in areas of high or extremely high water vulnerability,” It means that 1 in 5 children worldwide does not have enough water to meet their everyday needs,”
It is said that the figures in Nigeria are particularly worrisome, with 26.5 million Nigerian children experiencing high or extremely high water vulnerability – or 29 per cent of Nigerian children.”
Unicef said Communities living in these areas depend on surface water, unimproved sources of water, or water that can take more than 30 minutes to collect.
UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins, said “the world’s water crisis is not coming – it is here, and children are its biggest victims.” “When wells dry up, children are the ones missing school to fetch water. When droughts diminish food supplies, children suffer from malnutrition and stunting. When floods hit, children fall ill from waterborne illnesses. And when water is not available in Nigerian communities, children cannot wash their hands to fight off diseases,” said Mr Hawkins.
According to him, children in more than 80 countries live in areas with high or extremely high water vulnerability, with places like Eastern and Southern Africa bearing “the highest proportion of children living in such areas, with more than half of children – 58 per cent – facing difficulty accessing sufficient water every day.”
Next to the two regions of Africa are West and Central Africa (31 per cent), South Asia (25 per cent), and the Middle East (23 per cent).
The research data places South Asia as “home to the largest number of children living in areas of high or extremely high water vulnerability – more than 155 million children.”
The statement added that “Children in 37 ‘hotspot’ countries face especially dire circumstances, in terms of absolute numbers, the proportions of children affected, and where global resources, support and urgent action must be mobilized.
The hotspot countries include Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Haiti, Kenya, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Sudan, Tanzania and Yemen.
It could be recalled that last year, the Nigerian Government and UNICEF had released a WASH NORM study which indicated that “while there has been some progress, thanks to efforts by the Ministry of Water Resources and its partners to strengthen the sector’s planning and monitoring – there is still much more work to be done in the country to ensure that all Nigerians have access to adequate and quality water and hygiene services.”
Water Still a Major Challenge for Nigeria
While the situation of water as it affects children in Nigeria is seen as worrisome, more statistics have not put Nigeria on a favourable rung of countries doing enough to tackle water issues inline with the SDG.
Unicef water experts said “Sustainable and equitable access to safe drinking water remains a challenge in Nigeria, with over 86 per cent of Nigerians lacking access to a safely managed drinking water source.
Nigeria’s water crisis is said to be compounded by “poor drinking water quality and lack of equity in access.”
It is analysed further that although about 70 per cent of Nigerians have access to basic water services, more than half of these water sources are contaminated.
While 73 per cent of Nigeria’s population have access to water sources, “only nine litres of water on average is available to a Nigerian daily.”
It is feared that going by the current rate, Nigeria “will miss the SDG targets on people’s access to water,” unless there is a strong commitment and appropriate action taken by all stakeholders.
“While the impact of water scarcity can be felt by all, no one suffers more than the most vulnerable children.
“We have to act now both to address the water crisis in Nigeria to prevent it from getting worse and if we want to meet the SDGs,” said Mr Hawkins.
“We can only achieve water security for every Nigerian – including the Nigerian child – through innovation, investment and collaboration, and by ensuring services are sustainable and well-managed. We must act – for the sake of our children and our planet.”