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Nigeria still in dire basic water deficit, only 9 per cent of population have access to complete basic WASH services, finds NBS


By Charles Ike-Okoh

THUR, 12 NOV, 2020-theGBJournal- Only 9 per cent of the population have access to complete basic water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services and the overall status of WASH in Nigeria is low. Critics say the study highlights the impact of decades of neglect by government of the water sector.

Drawing on the study that also contains information on topics such as quality, dependability and adequacy of WASH services, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) identified the stark disparities in access to basic water supply services with regards to the wealth quintiles. People from the poorest households are about two times less likely to have access to basic water supply services than those from the richest households.

The NBS findings reflect the WASH levels and facility-based assessments of WASH infrastructure in the country, showing access to different combinations of basic water, sanitation and hygiene.

Disparities were observed in the use of combined basic WASH services across different areas of residence, geopolitical zones and socioeconomic lines. The most significant disparities are related to wealth. The wealthiest households are more than eight times more likely to access basic WASH services than the poorest households.

The trend shows fewer people having access to basic water, sanitation and hygiene services in 2019 than in 2018. In 2018, 21 million people had access while in 2019, 18 million people had access.

Expats attribute this largely to Nigeria’s rapidly growing population, dearth of funding for water infrastructure for decades, underutilised water in the country’s dams and the expanding demand from agriculture and industry sectors for water which have combined to pressure adequacy of quality water also.

Of the 31 billion cubic meter of water in the country’s dam only 18 percent is currently being used effectively, studies have shown. Besides, more people are at risk relying on taps fed by urban utilities’ supply.

But there is progress. About 70 per cent of Nigerians have access to basic drinking water supply services. In comparison 2018 WASH NORM data, there has been a slight progress in the achievement of universal and equitable access to the use of basic drinking water services, especially for those living in urban areas.

This again can be attributed to the World Bank (WB) involvement in financing water infrastructure in the country. The latest being in 2018 when it granted Nigeria US$ 320 million equivalent for water infrastructure projects.  Significantly, N153 billion has allocated to the Water Resources Ministry in 2021 budget. This hopefully will add impetus to efforts towards bridging the water deficit gaps.

The survey finds 2.04 million water facilities in Nigeria, 70% are self-supplied, 1 out of 5 (19%) have provisions for persons living with disabilities and two-thirds are boreholes.

Public water utilities are currently producing water in only 28 out of 36 states, plus the federal capital territory. In 16 states, the public utilities are classified as functional, that is, consistently producing water, supplying to active consumers and collecting user fees.

But according to the NBS, only 1 in 5 water points are dependable with respect to their design and configuration. 64 percent are dependable with respect to functionality and only 8 per cent are dependable with respect to operations and maintenance.

Worryingly, 41% of all taps fed by urban utilities’ supply are contaminated with E. coli. Slightly more than a third of drinking water from sources and from points of consumption within households are free from contamination.

‘’Rural dwellers are exposed to more contaminated drinking water than urban dwellers,’’ NBS noted.

Again, up to 74 per cent of publicly-owned water facilities are functional, a 5 percentage point increase from 2018 (69%). There are only minor disparities across area of residences, ownership, usage and water facility type.

In rural areas, the average per capita share of drinking water is 8.6 liters/person/day. Only 19% of the population are using water supply systems in rural areas that meet the adequacy threshold of providing “sufficient” quantities of water or a minimum of 16 liters of water per person per day for those living within 500 meters from the water system.

Defecation remains a norm in most parts of the country with as much as 23 percent of Nigerians still practicing open defecation. NBS reckons that about 44 percent of the population have access to basic sanitation services but acknowledges that there has been little progress in the achievement of universal access to basic sanitation system.

The NBS suggests this ‘’reliable, comprehensive and up-to-date WASH data will be key to guide decisions of policymakers and practitioners to adequately address the complex and multidimensional WASH issues the country is facing, as well as monitor the ambitious WASH goals of the SDGs.’’

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