Access to potable water is still a big challenge in both urban, rural towns

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Suleiman Adamu
Suleiman Adamu

By Benprince Ezeh

MANY cities in Nigeria lack potable water and the residents spend a large chunk of their monthly budgets on pure water, which has become a popular source of drinking water. The situation is, however, not different in most state capitals.

However, the outbreak of coronavirus, COVID-19 in late 2019 has again exposed the huge gaps in the provision of potable water and the need for water and soap for washing hands as one of the measures to be taken in checking the spread of the virus.

But, a survey conducted by Nigeria’s Bureau of Statistics, NBS, and UNICEF shows millions of households in Nigeria do not have access to clean water sources. While the supply of clean water in Nigeria has improved recently, 3 in 10 people still lack access to it.

According to aid agencies, 60 million Nigerians, or 33 percent of the population, do not have access to clean water. But water and environmental experts like Joseph Ibrahim say that the figure may have been underestimated. “I think that the figure is a little bit conservative in the sense that as Nigerians, we know that more of our population live in the rural areas. I think the World Bank’s statistics tells us that about 51 percent of our population reside in the rural areas and it is common knowledge that the rural population doesn’t have access to clean water,” he said.

Reuben Habu leads Nigeria’s Integrated Water Resources Management Commission. He admits the water problem is serious. “The major problem is funding,” he said. “With improved funding, there will be improved infrastructural development, which will guarantee adequate provision of water for the population,” Habu said.

But Joseph Ibrahim says there could be a way out. “I think it’s high time we started recycling our water through channeling our water to waste treatment plants, and from there we separate the water as it is done in other developed countries of the world,” he said.

TEDROS Ghebreyesus
TEDROS Ghebreyesus

On April 1, the World Health Organization, WHO, said that COVID-19 virus is transmitted through respiratory droplets or contact. Contact transmission occurs when contaminated hands touch the mucous of the mouth, nose, or eyes. The virus can also be transferred from one surface to another by contaminated hands, which facilitates indirect contact transmission. Consequently, washing of hands with running water and not bucket water is extremely important to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

It also interrupts the transmission of other viruses and bacteria causing common colds, flu and pneumonia, thus reducing the general burden of the disease. Although the awareness of the importance of hand hygiene in preventing infection with the COVID-19 virus is high, access to hand hygiene facilities that include alcohol-based hand rubs as well as soap and water is often suboptimal in the community and in healthcare facility settings, especially in low-and middle-income countries.

WHO and UNICEF estimate that globally three billion people lack hand hygiene facilities at home and two out of five healthcare facilities lack hand hygiene at points of care.

But a look at in Idi Aba, Abeokuta south of Ogun state, shows that water has never been their problem as there are many sources of water. Borehole, well, pipe borne water and rain water are available to the residents of Idi Aba.  However, many residents, about 70% depend on well for their source of water. Most residents argue that well water is better than the pipe borne water provided by the Ogun state water agency.

For instance, Olanike Ijaola, a baker says that she uses well water for virtually everything at home. “It’s perfect and has better smell than the pure water many buy people daily.

Olanike Ijaola
Olanike Ijaola

“I use it to cook, brush my teeth and even drink it after boiling it. I have been using it for a long time now, same goes for my family. But sometimes, I do get pipe borne water or pure water to brush my teeth with or for drinking, but if you smell the two, you will know that the well water has better smell than pure water we buy here,” she said.

According to Elvis Okafor, a medical practitioner with the Federal Medical Center, FMC, Abeokuta, the residents of this area of the state barely lack water. “In my compound, we have two wells, one pumps water into the house and the other is just for emergency when there is no light.

Elvis Okafor
Elvis Okafor

“The well water is as clean as you can imagine, we cook with it, brush and bath with it and in fact, it’s actually drinkable,” Okafor said.

For Kenechukwu Okwor, another FMC worker, “I don’t drink well water here. Many do, but I have sensitive immune system and I don’t want to try it.

Kenechukwu Okwor
Kenechukwu Okwor

“Since I came to this state, I only use well water for cooking and bathing, I use pure water for brushing of my teeth and drinking. Most times, I use disinfectant on the water I use for bathing or even boil it before bathing with it. I find it difficult to pump water during the dry season because the well dries up. This time, I have a new borehole,” he said.

There is a need for the federal, state, and local governments to pay attention to the provision of potable water for the citizens as this will prevent some of the water borne diseases like cholera, guinea worm, diarrhea, and a host of other diseases. For sure, this will certainly save the large number of lives lost yearly to such water borne diseases as well as the funds usually spent in containing the annual outbreak of some of these diseases.

– May 1, 2020 @ 8:45 GMT |

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