Nigeria: Eradicating waterborne diseases | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Nigeria: Eradicating waterborne diseases

Posted: Apr 7, 2015 at 7:08 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Presently in Nigeria, statistics on access to water and sanitation are conflicting, due to divergent definitions, indicators and methodologies applied by different agencies in the Water sector

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently said 3.4 million people die annually as a result of water borne diseases associated with inadequate provision of drinking water and sanitation. Most of these people live in Asia and Africa. Statistics have it that about 130,000 Nigerian children die within the same period because of water related infections.

Diseases like cholera, typhoid fever, dysentery and hepatitis A, are all caused by ingestion of causative water inhabiting pathogens. Guinea worm, Schistosomiasis and a host of other parasitic nematodes likewise find their way into the human body through drinking or bathing with contaminated water.

We believe that since the causative factors of these diseases and their habitats are known, the only thing lacking for their eradication in Nigeria is the political will and better coordination in the Water Resources Management sector for effective service delivery, to meet the defined national access targets for sanitation and drinking water.

It is unfortunate that we are still talking about and battling water borne diseases in Nigeria in 2015, because at a National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) briefing (2003-2007), the country recognised that good health is unobtainable, unless the environments in which the people live are healthy. And to this end, the National Water Supply and Sanitation Strategy under NEEDS, accepted that water supply and sanitation are central to improvements in so many aspects of human, health, education, urban and rural development. Nigeria also accepted that since water and sanitation are central to the government’s primary mission of poverty reduction, the NEEDS proposed that water supply and sanitation should be a primary focus of the government.

It is obvious that till now, Water supply and sanitation are characterised by low levels of access to improved water source and limited access to improved sanitation, as there are no signs that Nigeria is striving to put enough structures in place to achieve the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) water target before 2046 and for sanitation by 2076, according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report.

Presently in Nigeria, statistics on access to water and sanitation are conflicting, due to divergent definitions, indicators and methodologies applied by different agencies in the Water sector. The World Health Organisation and UNICEF report for 2012 ranked Nigeria third behind China and India as countries with the largest population without adequate water supply and sanitation coverage.

We urge government to educate people more on the far reaching consequences of waterborne diseases especially in terms of the huge financial implication of treating these diseases and the number of lost man hours and even possible death when a person is afflicted with any of them. There is also a need to merge the pre- colonial traditional sanitation system whereby family heads monitored sanitation with the western standards of sanitation. This will ensure that everybody is responsible for a clean environment to facilitate proper waste disposal, prevent contaminants and faecal waste being washed into the gutters, canals and rivers thereby finding their way to sources of drinking and bathing water.

Certainly, there is a need for clearly defined responsibility for sanitation, better monitoring and greater commitment on the part of all tiers of government to ensure that goals set are met.

We want to also remind the Federal Government to fulfill the twenty six Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) commitments it made between 2010-2012 at United Nations Assembly, New York  (2010), African Sanitation and Hygiene conference, South Africa (2011) and the Water Sanitation and Water for All meeting in Washington (2012) where it promised to harmonise water and sanitation policies.

Obviously if all these are put in place, and people continue to wash their hands regularly as much as possible and under the present circumstance, use latrines, water borne diseases will be eliminated with Nigeria standing to garner billions of dollars in health and productivity gains.