Challenges and opportunities for water and sanitation in Nigeria’s rural communities

Abuja City gate

Earlier this year, while performing project monitoring exercise in some areas of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, the problem of water and sanitation is one which I witnessed first-hand and I wondered, if the Nigeria Nation’s capital is still trying to solve the problem of water and sanitation, what about the rest of the country?

Poor access to improved water and sanitation in Nigeria remains a major contributing factor to high morbidity and mortality rates among children under five. The use of contaminated drinking water and poor sanitary conditions result in increased vulnerability to water-borne diseases, including diarrhoea which leads to deaths of more than 70,000 children under five annually.

Seventy-three per cent of the diarrhoeal and enteric disease burden is associated with poor access to adequate water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), and is disproportionately borne by poorer children. Frequent episodes of WASH related ill-health in children, contribute to absenteeism in school, and malnutrition. Only 26.5 per cent of the population use improved drinking water sources and sanitation facilities. Also, 23.5 per cent of the population defecate in the open. (UNICEF)

Water is a universal resource which, because of its free occurrence in nature, is often taken for granted and abused, especially in third world nations where information is neither readily accessible nor disseminated to society. Abundant as it may seem, water, in its clean state, is one of the rarest elements in the world. (Omole and Longe, 2013)

Progressively, poor access to improved water and sanitation in Nigeria remains a major contributing factor to high morbidity and mortality rates among children and adults. The use of contaminated drinking water and poor sanitary conditions result in increased vulnerability to water-borne diseases, including, diarrhoea which leads to the death of more than 70,000 persons annually.

The Federal Government of Nigerian and organizations like UNICEF, UNDP, World Bank, WHO, and many other non-governmental organizations continue to drive for the availability of clean water and sanitary services but there are a plethora of factors militating against it in rural communities, one of such factors worthy of note is poor infrastructure development.

Poor infrastructural investment on the part of the government is one very important factor informing the unavailability of clean water and sanitary services. When low priority is given to the operational budget of government owned water and sanitary services providers, a malfunction is inevitable. Equally, inadequate water supply and sanitary policies greatly abet the aforementioned malfunction. Summarily, the government plays a vital role in the availability of clean water and sanitary services.

In addition, corruption in the water supply and sanitary services sector is one heart-breaking factor greatly mitigating against the availability of water and sanitary services in urban and rural areas alike. Corruption translates to inefficient use of funds provided for water supply facility maintenance, general operations, staff remuneration and development projects.

The role of information in tackling issues of water and sanitation cannot be overemphasized. Inadequate sensitization and awareness on the need for efficient water and sanitary services informs the nonchalance of urban settlers. There is no limit to the good derived from mass sensitization on proper sanitation. There are a lot of rural dwellers that don’t fully understand the implications of inadequate sanitation and unclean water.

While government still has a large role to play, everyday citizens are also not helping matters, a lot of facility constructors do also very little to tackle this challenge, like one of the Public Health Centres I monitored that does not have a source of water (Borehole or well), instead rely on rain or water peddlers (Meruwa). The PHC also lacks proper waste disposal and uses an improper refuse dump that lies in front of it which children in the community openly defecate on. A lot of motor parks, many of which are makeshift parks, do not have water and sanitation facilities including those in urban areas.

Some of these recommendations can be looked at

· Specific population data gathering and analysis to aid in the provision of water and sanitation services despite the rapid population growth. The government’s plan should be a comprehensive one putting into consideration both the rural and urban population growth index.

· Government should sufficiently avail funds to facilitate the availability of water and sanitation services and be adequately monitored to ensure funds are efficiently used for the intended purpose.

· Continuous sensitization on the need for clean water and proper sanitation. Also, sensitization on how to maintain public facilities and infrastructures as lack of maintenance has rendered a lot of these infrastructure useless.

· People oriented water and sanitation policies should be put in place with realistic implementation plans.

· Facility inspectors should ensure proper water and sanitation infrastructure are provided when buildings are constructed. A lot of landlords fail to provide adequate water and sanitation facilities when constructing houses or shops especially in the rural area.

Summarily, water and sanitation in rural areas are not to be taken lightly as they are an essential part of man’s continued existence. Every citizen has a right to clean water and proper sanitation and it is only deliberate efforts that can ensure its sustainable availability.

Morenigbade is of the

Good Governance Team

UNI Agric Markurdi
Blueprint Whatsapp