President Buhari
President Buhari

By Eric Ojo, Abuja

Poor sanitation is currently estimated to cost Nigeria an equivalent 0.9 percent of her Gross Domestic Product (GDP) amounting to $3.38 billion annually, according to WaterAid.

WaterAid said though Nigeria is the largest economy in Sub-Saharan Africa, one out of three Nigerians does not have clean water close to home and two in three do not have a decent household toilet.

This, according to the international not-for-profit organisation working in 34 countries, directly contributes to the deaths of nearly 60,000 children under five each year of diarrhoeal illnesses caused by dirty water, poor sanitation and poor hygiene.

“This emergency kills more people annually in Nigeria than have died in conflict with Boko Haram. Poor sanitation is also estimated to cost countries the equivalent of 0.9 percent of GDP and in Nigeria, this amounts to $3.38 billion a year”, the group said in a statement issued in Abuja on Thursday.

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In Nigeria, it is also estimated that 123 million people are without a basic household toilet, 60 million people are without clean water close to home, while 166 million people do not have a way to wash hands with soap.

In addition, 50 percent of schools are without basic toilet, 30 percent of healthcare facilities do not have a water source on site and progress on sanitation is regressing to the extent that for every urban resident reached with a decent household toilet, another two join the queue to wait.

Against this backdrop, WaterAid has however applauded the launch of the Nigerian Federal Government’s emergency response to address its water and sanitation crisis, which is the first phase of a National Action Plan addressing a state of emergency declared earlier this year.

While commending the launch of the National Action Plan, ChiChi Aniagolu-Okoye, the Country Director of WaterAid Nigeria, said it is a significant political milestone towards achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goal 6 to reach everyone, everywhere with clean water and decent sanitation by 2030.

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“Our expectation is that state governments will follow suit in developing Action Plans to address the Water and Sanitation crises in their respective states.

“With 1 in 3 Nigerians without clean water, and 2 in 3 Nigerians without decent household sanitation, strong political will is what is needed to address the water and sanitation crises in Nigeria and at WaterAid we are delighted that the Federal Government and His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari is demonstrating the needed political will with the launch of the Action Plan”, she added.

The National Action Plan commences with an 18-month emergency plan, followed by a five-year recovery plan and a 13-year revitalisation strategy, towards the 2030 deadline set by the UN Sustainable Development Goals to eradicate extreme poverty and create a healthier, more sustainable planet.

It also commits the Federal Government of Nigeria and states to establish the institutional and funding foundations for sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene services, and to accelerate development towards 2030.

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In a speech declaring a state of emergency in water, sanitation and hygiene and launching the action plan, His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, said his government was committed to developing the water sector.

President Buhari also noted with dismay the declining services, including a fall in the percentage of the population with piped water services (32 percent in 1990, 7 percent in 2015) and a fall in the percentage of people with access to improved sanitation (from 38 percent in 1990 to 29 percent in 2015).

In his words, the President said: “As we all know our country is vast with an increasing rate of urbanisation but recent indices for water supply and sanitation access requires that governments at all levels redouble efforts and work in synergy towards meeting the nation’s water supply and sanitation demands”.