UNICEF warns of acute water shortage, seeks sustainable storage alternatives

He said due to population growth, Nigeria made slow progress in improving access to potable water for the citizens, with access only at 10 per cent, calling for more investments in the sector.

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The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has hinted that Nigeria’s continued reliance on surface water sources may lead to acute shortage, impacting negatively on livelihoods and wellbeing of the population.

Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, said this when he featured on the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Forum, a special interview programme, in Abuja.

He said due to population growth, Nigeria made slow progress in improving access to potable water for the citizens, with access only at 10 per cent, calling for more investments in the sector.

According to him, there is need for the country to seek water storage alternatives through harvesting and sustainable conservation.

“In terms of provision of clean water, there are two levels.

“The actual increase has been, I think it was, about 10 per cent or 11 per cent increase about access to clean water.

“But when you look at the population growth and where the population has moved to, I am afraid Nigeria is going backwards on access to clean water.

“Nigeria relies a lot on the water table and on surface water.

“The water table with climate change and the massive population, Nigeria potentially has a crisis looming in the future.

“I am talking about 10, 20, 30 years and its reliance on surface water, without the infrastructure to meet it, is always going to be a burden on the country.

“So, it has to look at different ways of capturing water, making water available, especially in the urban areas; piping water and making it better available, that will require a considerable investment.”

The UNICEF representative noted that the biggest progress in the sector was the declaration of a state of emergency in the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2018.

He said this had led to more local governments becoming open defecation-free and communities taking ownership of their sanitation and hygiene needs.

Hawkins said UNICEF had introduced the annual Water, Sanitation and Hygiene National Outcome Routine Mapping (WASHNORM) Report for all stakeholders to monitor progress made in water and sanitation at the state level.

According to him, Nigeria needs N3 billion annually to make reasonable change.

“So the data now is there and that is owned by and produced by the Ministry of Water Resources for State level entities.

“So you can see where your State is going and what is required, but then it requires massive investment.

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“The level of investment I think, if I remember correctly, is between the region of N3 billion a year if Nigeria were to catch up with any sort of reasonable level of access to clean water and good sanitation.

“That level of investment, it needs to take place and if it doesn’t take place I am afraid, over the next 20, 30 years, that Nigeria will be faced with serious consequences.

“I will give you one statistic that I know from water in primary healthcare centres, it has dropped from 7 to 6 per cent year on year.

“So only 6 per cent of primary healthcare centres across the country have access to clean water.”

According to the 2021 WASHNORM Report, 23 per cent of Nigerians lack access to basic water supply services and only 10 per cent of the population have access to basic water, sanitation and hygiene services combined.