In this report, Remmy Nweke underlines the importance of water to human life and dignity.

Preamble:
The efficacy of water in human development cannot be over-emphasised, hence it is not surprising as the economic reality dawn on Nigerians with the fall in oil prices, the cost of things consequently went up and one of those remarkable items that skyrocketed in the first week was a sachet water, otherwise known as ‘Pure Water’ in Nigeria, which apparently goes for N5 now going for upto N20; an estimated raise of 150 per cent, thereby making it extremely difficult and out of the reach of the common man.

So, every March 22, for some years now, Nigeria joins the rest of the world to celebrate the World Water Day and 2016. Nigeria, NaijaAgroNet report, has been reputed as the most inhabited country in Africa with a population of 162 million people and growing rapidly. Experts said, as the population increases, remote communities are further cut off and urban facilities become congested due to lack of sustainable deliberate policies to steam lack of water and its associated social amenities to match the growth.

Why a World Water Day?
The World Water Day, NaijaAgroNet reports is an international observance and an opportunity to learn more about water related issues, be inspired to tell others and take action to make a difference. Thus, World Water Day dates back to the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development where an international observance for water was recommended. The United Nations General Assembly responded by designating 22 March 1993 as the first World Water Day.

This day, NaijaAgroNet gathered has been held annually since then with each year, UN-Water, the entity that coordinates the UN’s work on water and sanitation sets a theme for World Water Day corresponding to a current or future challenge. The engagement campaign is coordinated by one or several of the UN-Water members with a related mandate.

Better water, better jobs:
This year, however, UN-Water says the theme is ‘Better water, better jobs’ stressing that nowadays, almost half of the world’s workers, estimated at 1.5 billion people work in water related sectors and nearly all jobs depend on water and those that ensure its safe delivery.

Yet the millions of people who work in water are often not recognized or protected by basic labour rights, hence UN-Water said, the theme in 2016 of water and jobs focuses on how enough quantity and quality of water could change workers’ lives and livelihoods – and even transform societies and economies.

Why Water?
For a lot of concerned portable water advocates, access to safe water is the first step to breaking the poverty cycle.

According to official of Nigeria’s Ministry of Water Resources, who sought for anonymous, “Water accounts for approximately two-thirds of the human body and is responsible for the proper functioning of many health systems needed for survival, including the brain.” Just as about 70 per cent of the earth is water but less than 1 per cent is drinkable, even as some 9 million people reportedly died last year from lack of access to clean water.
Our source, says that those alive today have the opportunity to help, especially the women and children, which have economic impacts.

Economic Impact of safe water:
Our source at the Ministry noted that every $1 invested in improved water supply and sanitation could yield $4 to $12 for the local economy, depending on the type of project, citing for instance that the walk in search of water that used to take three hours, now takes 15 minutes, which when translated in another words means that water is now safe to drink.

While the extra time and new water source, experts say could be used to start a vegetable garden to feed a family, sell of the extra food at the market, children spend more time in school instead of walking for water, even as once educated, children could become teachers, nurses and artisans and entrepreneurs. Even as there is no gain saying that health and sanitation will improve with anticipated reduction in death from disease as a result of improving water quality.

Investigations launched by NaijaAgroNet, showed that Sheri, a suburb of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, also known as resettlement site, does not have portable water as the community still spend so much time in search of water, while any slit in fuel scarcity means local water suppliers may not get water to drink or use because the boreholes at a distance from Sheri may not be able to pump water into their tanks for sale.

Although, gratifying was the bill at the National Assembly by Senator Mao Ohuabunwa and co-sponsors: Sen. Enyinnaya Abaribe, Sen. Theodore Orji, Sen. Abu Ibrahim; for “Improvement of Access to Safe and Clean Water to Nigerian Citizens in Recognition of the 2016 World Water Day.”

This step, industry watchers say is a step in the right direction and a welcome development.

Water central to human survival:
In his message to the World Water Day 2016, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr Ban Ki-moon urged for global action, asserting, “We can take bold action to address water inequity as part of our efforts to realize the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” Even as UN-Water underscored the fact that 1 in 10 people lack access to safe water.

He said, nearly all jobs depend on the availability of freshwater and pointed out that despite the importance, water as a sector generally does not receive the attention it deserves. Water is central to human survival, the environment and the economy. Arguing that all workers could be harmed by poor water and sanitation, and noted that of 2 million work-related deaths every year, nearly one-in-five are caused by poor quality drinking water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene. Also, Ban Ki-moon said, people with the least access to water and sanitation often also lack access to health care and stable jobs.

“This perpetuates the cycle of poverty. I am especially concerned by gaps between cities and the countryside, men and women, and rich and poor.  The basic provision of adequate water, sanitation and hygiene services at home, at school and in the workplace enables a robust economy by contributing to a healthy and productive population and workforce. We can take bold action to address water inequity as part of our efforts to realize the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Sustainable Development Goal 6, on ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all, addresses the need for access.

“On this World Water Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to improve the quality, management and protection of water resources as part of our historic campaign to achieve a life of dignity for all people,” he urged.

For Head, Programme at Oxfam Nigeria, Mr. Constant Tchona, who was speaking at 2016 World Water Day session in Abuja, access to safe water and sanitation by Nigerians remains a key challenge, affecting mostly women.

Tchona also expressed concerned over looming water, sanitation and hygiene crisis in Nigeria, saying that about 3.5 million people die annually from water-related diseases, with about 1.7 million children under the ages of five among those who die annually from diarrheal disease.

The Oxfam official, said, it was time Nigeria realised that the world is in the midst of a global water, sanitation and hygiene crisis considering that nearly 800 million people globally have no access to water. He decried that Nigeria, even as the most populous country in Africa, still has about 39 per cent (63 million people) of her population still lacking access to safe or clean water sources, while nearly 112 million people are without access to improved sanitation, pointed out that water and sanitation coverage rate in the country is still amongst the lowest in the world.
“The water and sanitation challenge
s in Nigeria go beyond questions of access.  Young  girls are forced to drop out of school due to a lack of sanitation facilities, and women are harassed, or assaulted as they trek long distances through the bush paths to collect and  carry water home, or when going to the bush to defecate due the lack of access to a public toilet,” he said, whereas blaming the level of development on poor governance, weak policies and poor management that have affected the provision of clean and safe water to Nigerians.

Impact of dirty water in Nigeria:
Country Representative, WaterAid Nigeria, Mr. Michael Ojo, recently said that the impact of dirty water and unsafe sanitation is having high impact on the lives of African and Nigeria is not an exception.
This, he said, has claimed the lives of nearly half a million Africans every year, with attendant economic cost estimated at $50 billion annually, blaming lack of access to clean drinking water, basic sanitation and hygiene services.
According to him, the latest figures showed that a third of Africans are still drinking water from unsafe sources, with over 1 in 10 from surface water, but staggering 70 per cent of Africans lack access to basic sanitation and nearly a quarter are practicing open defecation.
In Nigeria, he said, the statistics showed how far the country still has to go because there are about 36 per cent without clean drinking water and 72 per cent are lacking access to basic sanitation.
The Abuja-based international organization, Water Aid Nigeria also informed NaijaAgroNet that 57 million people in the country do not have access to clean and safe water, leaving in its wake, huge effects which include that over 130 million people don’t have access to adequate sanitation in Nigeria, two thirds of the population, while over 25,000 children were reported dead every year from diarrhoea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation in Nigeria.
Conclusion:
As the World Water Day is commemorated this year, the Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Water Resources needs some calibration beginning with their website which has absolute obsolete information at this era, let alone feed Nigerians both home and abroad what the activities of the ministry is, especially on this all important day, to the extent that it was last updated in 2015 with former Minister still in office.
The enlightenment on how to better use water, especially by the working class resonates more at the work place where even the little water available are allowed to waste due to inability of government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to fix their taps, after all as some observers had said, government business is no one’s business, but forgetting soon that charity begins at home.
Though it was disheartening that Sheri, a resettlement centre near the FCT cannot have portable water for its community in the last 16 years of democratic rule in Nigeria. Using this scenario, confirms why we could have many Africans and Nigerians lack water and dying of water related diseases, where it do exist artificially.
Good news, however is that the like of Senators aforementioned are picking interest on improving access to safe and clean water to Nigerian citizens. Only time shall tell what becomes of the proposed bill by these array of distinguished Senators.

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This post was originally published at Naija AgroNet and has been republished with permission.

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