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Prioritizing children in Nigeria’s water crisis

Access to clean water is a basic human right, yet millions of children in Nigeria are suffering the consequences of water scarcity. On this World…

Access to clean water is a basic human right, yet millions of children in Nigeria are suffering the consequences of water scarcity. On this World Water Day, we must take a hard look at the water situation in Nigeria and renew our commitment to ensuring that every child has access to clean water. 

According to UNICEF, over 60 million people in Nigeria still lack access to clean water, more than 110 million lack basic sanitation facilities and 48 million are still practicing open defecation. The situation is particularly dire in rural areas where access to water is limited and often requires walking long distances to fetch water from contaminated sources. This leaves children vulnerable to waterborne diseases, which are among the leading causes of child mortality in Nigeria. 

But the impact of water scarcity on children in Nigeria goes beyond their physical health. Children who are forced to walk long distances to collect water often miss out on education and other opportunities, perpetuating a cycle of poverty and inequality. 

The consequences of inaction are severe. By 2050, Nigeria’s population will reach 400 million, which will put even greater pressure on the country’s already limited water resources. Without urgent action, the situation will only worsen, and millions of children will continue to suffer the consequences. Moreover, with an urban growth rate of over five per cent, as more people move to towns and cities, the parlous state of our urban utilities needs highlighting.

A 2021 study found that only 22 per cent of Nigerian waterworks are fully functional and are only utilizing 25 per cent of their potential capacity. This is why so many people are resorting to self-supply, such as drilling their own boreholes.

We must address this issue urgently to ensure that urban areas have access to sufficient clean water, and that Nigeria’s water resources will be safely managed and sustained to provide for all. 

But there is hope. Nigeria has made progress in increasing access to clean water and sanitation facilities in recent years, and more needs to be done. We need to invest in sustainable water solutions that are resilient to climate change and can provide access to water to all Nigerians, regardless of where they live. 

This requires a multi-sectoral approach that involves government, civil society, the private sector, and international partners. Governments must prioritise investments in water infrastructure and policies that support sustainable water management. Civil society must continue to raise awareness about the importance of water and sanitation and advocate for the rights of children to access clean water.

The private sector can support these efforts by investing in sustainable water solutions and promoting water conservation. And international partners can provide technical and financial support to help Nigeria achieve its water and sanitation goals. 

Most importantly, we need to prioritise children in all our efforts. Children are the future of Nigeria, and they deserve access to clean water, education, and other opportunities that will allow them to thrive. By prioritising children, we can break the cycle of poverty and inequality and build a brighter future for all Nigerians. 

As we mark World Water Day this year, the focus of the UN observance is on accelerating change to solve the water and sanitation crisis. We need everyone to take action, including you, your family, school, and community. Your commitments will be added to the Water Action Agenda, to be launched today at the UN 2023 Water Conference – the first event of its kind for nearly 50 years. 

The global campaign, called Be the Change, encourages people to take action in their own lives to change the way they use, consume and manage water. Let us all be part of this campaign and take action to ensure that every child in Nigeria has access to clean water. 

In conclusion, let us renew our commitment to ensuring that every child in Nigeria has access to clean water. Let us invest in sustainable water solutions that can withstand the challenges of climate change and provide access to water to all Nigerians. And let us prioritise children in all our efforts, so that they can have a brighter future for themselves and for Nigeria.  


Adamu is the Minister of Water Resources while Munduate is the UNICEF Representative in Nigeria 


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