Fred Ezeh, Abuja
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), has revealed, in a new report, that only 11 percent of Nigerians have access to complete basic Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) services, while only 13 per cent of schools have access to same services.
The implication of this, according to the report, is that more than 100,000 children under five years of age die each year due to water borne diseases like diarrhea, of which 90 per cent is directly attributed to unsafe water and sanitation.
The UN children agency said the report also confirmed that children without access to WASH seem to loose interest in pursuing learning opportunities because they spend more time in search of water during school hours or stay off school to recover from illness caused by frequent episodes of diarrhea.
UNICEF Nigeria Representative in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins, in a statement released in Abuja, on Thursday, confirmed that poor families are more affected in such situation, and the intervention of government, as well as local and international partners are needed for an improved situation.
He said that WASH National Outcome Routine Mapping (WASH NORM), report, expectedly, revealed that people from poorest households in Nigeria are more than 10 times less likely to have access to basic water, sanitation, and hygiene services than those from the richest households.
He commended Nigerian government for some solid commitments made towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goal six (SDG 6) and eliminating inequalities in the WASH sector, and requested for more collaborative effort for improved indices.
Head of European Union (EU) delegation in Nigeria, Ketil Karlsen, insisted that clean water, basic toilets and good hygiene practices are critical for survival and development of children.
He said: “Without these basic needs, the lives of millions of children are at risk. To this end, we must do better for children by prioritising WASH on our development agenda.”
The EU Ambassador registered his displeasure with the high case of open defecation in Nigeria, stressing that ending open defecation and making WASH services available to children in rural Nigeria is one of the biggest challenges in Nigeria.
He said that construction and management of WASH requires sustained investments and more partnerships. Meanwhile, recent UNICEF report revealed that 47 million Nigerians practice open defecation.