Nigeria cannot afford to allow water borne diseases to keep decimating its population, President Muhammadu Buhari has said.
The President, who stated this while inaugurating National Action Plan for Revitalisation of Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Sector at the State House, has, therefore, declared a state of emergency on water supply, sanitation and hygiene sector.
He decried the country’s No. 2 rating in the global report on defecation, which claims that about 25 per cent of Nigeria’s population practising open defecation.
Buhari said the declaration has become imperative to reduce the high-prevalence of water-borne diseases in different parts of the country.
He noted that the situation is causing preventable deaths, adding that he was aware that Nigeria did not meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) targets for Water Supply and Sanitation that ended in 2015.
While emphasising that the provision of potable water supply, adequate sanitation and hygiene were primarily the responsibilities of state and local governments, he directed government at all levels to redouble efforts and work towards meeting the nation’s water supply and sanitation needs.
He said available statistics on open defecation, access to pipe borne water services and sanitation in the country ‘’were disturbing’’.
The President warned that henceforth, the Federal Government’s support to state would be based on their commitment to the implementation of the National Action Plan for Revitalisation of the Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Sector in their respective state and plans to end open defecation by 2025.
He lamented: “Access to pipe-borne water services, which was 32 per cent in 1990, has declined to seven per cent in 2015; access to improved sanitation has also decreased from 38 per cent in 1990 to 29 per cent in 2015.
“Our country now ranks No 2 in the global rating on Open Defecation as about 25 per cent of our population are practicing open defecation.
‘’WASH services at the rural areas are unsustainable as 46 per cent of all water schemes are non-functional, and the share of our spending on WASH sector has been declining from 0.70 per cent of the GDP in 1990 to about 0.27 per cent in 2015, which is far below the 0.70 per cent at the West African regional level.”
He added: “However, these are not being given the required attention judging from the high prevalence of water-borne diseases that are being reported in different parts of the country.
‘’We cannot and will not continue to allow these preventable occurrences to decimate our population…
‘’I call on all state governments to complement this effort by according the sector similar recognition to enable us work together to achieve the SDG targets for WASH by 2030.”
Buhari assured that his administration would keep placing priority on infrastructure growth, including water supply, sanitation and hygiene services towards ensuring a better life for Nigerians.
Minister of Water Resources Suleiman Adamu said open defecation reduced the dignity of a nation and has reduced school enrollment and attendance due to loss of time in search of water and frequent episodes of water and sanitation related illnesses as well as poor access to hygiene management facilities in schools.
Deputy Country Representative of the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) Nigeria, Pernille Ironson, who spoke on behalf of development partners on WASH, said: “The Federal Ministry of Water Resources, Federal Ministry of Environment and state governments need to work together for all Nigerians to have clean water and sanitation.”
Presently, the WASH programme is operational in six states of Imo, Abia, Delta, Taraba, Niger and Sokoto.