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NGO Wants Nigeria to Declare State of Emergency in Water, Sanitation Sector

By Eric Ojo, Abuja

(AFRICAN EXAMINER) – WaterAid Nigeria, an affiliate of WaterAid, the international Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), currently working in 34 countries around the world, has urged the Nigerian government to urgently declare a state of emergency in the water and sanitation sector.

WaterAid Nigeria also called on the Federal Government to set up a presidential taskforce empowered to deliver on providing water and sanitation for all Nigerians, adding that Nigeria can learn from pilot projects being implemented in similar contexts (like in Kenya) and conduct critical programmatic, social economic assessments of such through pilot replications with government support and leveraged finance.

According to WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) figures, Nigeria has 67 percent  water coverage. However, poor water management leaves millions of Nigerians experiencing severe water scarcity during at least part of the year. With an estimated 1,530 cubic meters of renewable freshwater available per person per year as at 2015 (a reduction from 2007 levels of 2,085 cubic meters), Nigeria is marked as a water-stressed country.

In addition, increasing population size and other factors including ethnic conflicts over water means that Nigeria can quickly go from being marked as a water-stressed country to a water-scarce one. While Government has undertaken a range of actions that have supported growth in access, there has been a concurrent loss in access due to desertification, pollution, hydrological extremes and urbanisation and also the lack of traditional and indigenous knowledge that embraces greener approaches.

For instance, the shrinking Lake Chad, the speedy decrease of which is threatening the resources and livelihoods of the 50 million people that live there. Issues like this raise the need for improved strategies to manage Nigeria’s water resource and remediate the losses.

Moreover, WaterAid advocates for responsible environmental management, including regulating the use of water in agriculture and industry, to ensure there is sufficient clean water for basic needs. In many places, there is sufficient water but people go without because basic needs are not prioritised, or because water is polluted or contaminated.

The not-for-profit organization, further suggested that Nigeria can mobilize resources from taxes, tariffs and transfers, and increasing the amount and proportion of aid for water, sanitation and hygiene in order to close the gaps in financing. “This also means supporting institutions to ensure they are accountable and well-governed, so that money is well-spent, and promoting pro-poor policies that ensure access to water for everyone”, the group said in a statement issued to mark the 2018 World Water Day.

The World Water Day which is commemorated on 22 March every year,  is about focusing attention on the importance of water. This year’s theme, ‘Nature for Water’, explores nature-based solutions to the water challenges we face in the 21st century.

The group also called for a shift in mind-sets and implementation approaches to integrate the principles of nature based solutions in all water-related projects; the development of enabling frameworks for such solutions and the integration of local solutions in all sector interventions.

Actors and key players were therefore advised to leverage on sector capacity improvement mechanisms (such as the National Water Resources Institute) to improve capacity across the sector and in allied sectors and cascade down knowledge to communities.

The NGO equally noted that the UN Global Goals, particularly in the water and sanitation sector, are everyone’s responsibility to deliver, adding that no one is left behind because everyone is accountable if they fail.

While lending credence to this assertion, the Country Director of WaterAid Nigeria, Dr. ChiChi Aniagolu-Okoye, said it is imperative for leaders to take decisive and concrete steps because, according to her, without water and sanitation, none of the other Global Goals, including alleviating poverty, improving health and creating a fairer and more sustainable world will be achievable.

“All solutions to the water crisis will demand multi-sectorial coordination and the inclusive participation of community-level actors. We know progress is possible: India has reached more than 300 million people in 15 years alone. But progress requires financing, political priority and the will to ensure the basic needs of every person are met, to ensure a better future for millions around the world”, she added.

Dr. Aniagolu  also pointed out that Cape Town is not the only city facing Day Zero, adding that 844 million people around the world, long walks and waiting for water, rely on dirty ponds, streams and open wells. “This trend is already a daily reality, causing illness and death. This shouldn’t be normal, for anyone.  Cape Town is a wake-up call for all of us, reminding us that access to water, our most precious resource, is increasingly under threat”, she noted.

She said Nigeria is joining in the call for urgent action from the international community and from government to reach the 33 percent of people in Nigeria without access to clean water close to home and to do so with solutions inspired and supported by nature.

“We need to do so much more with ‘green’ infrastructure (an approach to water management that protects, restores, or mimics the natural water cycle) and harmonise it with ‘grey’ infrastructure (human-engineered infrastructure for water resources) wherever possible as a way to address the pollution and misuse of natural water resources. Planting new forests, reconnecting rivers to floodplains, and restoring wetlands will rebalance the water cycle and improve human health and livelihoods”, she further stated.

Nature-based solutions which use or mimic natural processes, according to experts, have the potential to address contemporary water management challenges, improve water security and deliver co-benefits vital to all aspects of sustainable development.

 

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