More than a century since creation of Nigeria, potable water remains a ‘gold’ hard to come by in several parts of the country, particularly in the rural areas.
Today, March 22, being World Water Day spotlights the degree of water crisis globally and Nigeria in particular. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), more than 1.42 billion people – 450 million of which are children – live in areas of high or extremely high water vulnerability.
This means that one in every five children worldwide does not have enough water to meet their everyday needs.
More worryingly in Nigeria, 26.5 million Nigerian children experiencing high or extremely high water vulnerability – or 29 per cent of Nigerian children. Invariably, one third of Nigerian children don’t have enough water to meet their daily needs.
“The world’s water crisis is not coming – it is here, and children are its biggest victims,” UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins, had said on the sidelines of last year’s World Water Day.
“When wells dry up, children are the ones missing school to fetch water. When droughts diminish food supplies, children suffer from malnutrition and stunting. When floods hit, children fall ill from waterborne illnesses. And when water is not available in Nigerian communities, children cannot wash their hands to fight off diseases,” Hawkins further noted.
Every year, water-borne diseases afflict millions of people, especially those living without safe, accessible water in developing countries. In this regard, Daily Trust highlights six water-borne diseases common in Nigeria and how to prevent them.
Diarrhoea is the to be the second leading cause of death for children under the age of five, causing more childhood deaths than malaria, AIDS, and measles combined. This can be avoided through proper hygiene and use of clean water.
Cholera is commonly found in villages and suburbs where poverty and poor sanitation are rampant. It spreads through contaminated water and causes severe dehydration and diarrhoea. Cholera can be fatal within days or even hours of exposure to the bacteria. Symptoms of cholera include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and muscle cramps. However, it can be prevented through regular hand washing, eating foods that are well cooked, drinking clean water, among others.
Although rare in developed countries, typhoid fever is well-known in extremely poor parts of developing nations. According to Lifewater.org, it’s estimated that up to 20 million people worldwide suffer from the illness each year. It’s spread through contaminated food, unsafe water, and poor sanitation, and it is highly contagious.
Typhoid is a fever that increases muscle aches, causes fatigue, sweating, diarrhoea or constipation. It can be prevented by avoid drinking unclean water and eating exposed food.
Dysentery is a water-borne disease that manifested through severe diarrhoea with blood or mucus in the stool. Dysentery, which is spread through poor hygiene, can be prevented with regular hand washing. Its symptoms include stomach cramps and pain, diarrhoea, fever, nausea, vomiting, dehydration.
Hepatitis A is a liver infection caused by consumption of contaminated food and water or by coming in close contact with an infected person. Some of its symptoms include fatigue, clay-coloured bowel movements, jaundice, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, loss of appetite and sudden fever.
Although the infection usually goes away in a few weeks, it can become severe and last several months if left untreated. Eating foods that are thoroughly cooked and served hot can help prevent Hepatitis A.
Dengue fever is a common disease that can be contracted through water. It is spread by the female “tiger” mosquitoes (the Aedes genus) that breed in water. Hence, the disease is rampant in areas with stagnant or dirty water. Proper and regular cleaning of surroundings will deter mosquitoes. Using mosquito repellents and sleeping under treated nets are also ways of preventing dengue fever.