By Saater Ikpaahindi
As I looked through Connected Development’s array of remarkable pictures that document the organisation’s work, many pictures grabbed my attention. Perhaps it’s because of my child protection background but this picture instantly brought me a thousand worries. The picture of children drawing water from a poorly constructed, widely gaping water well. The thoughts that ran through my mind were; what if the children fell into the well? What if there was no adult in sight to help them out? What if they drowned?
My mind kept racing with these thoughts as I also pondered if the water was clean enough to make these children risk their lives. Pictures like these, draw you into the reality of the limited access to clean water supply many Nigerians face especially those living in rural communities.
Although Nigeria has made great progress in the provision of clean water for its citizens, however, 59 million people in Nigeria do not have access to clean drinking water (according to WaterAid), that is approximately 1 in 3 people. This has contributed to high morbidity rates, especially among children under five. Using dirty and contaminated water increases the likelihood of contracting water borne diseases which leads to thousands of deaths yearly, disproportionately affecting women and children. According to UNICEF, 70% of diarrhoeal and enteric disease burden can be traced to poor access to adequate water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and this affects the poorest children the most.
Like the appalling provision of many basic amenities, the inadequate provision of clean water facilities in Nigeria can be traced to poor governance, corruption and poor accountability and transparency. Funds dedicated for the provision of basic social amenities like clean drinking water are often siphoned by public officials for their own personal enrichment, pushing millions of Nigerian’s especially women and children into extreme poverty.
To address these issues, for the past seven years, Connected Development (CODE) has been working with marginalised communities to build their capacity to hold government accountable for the provision of social services meant for their communities. CODE’s innovative initiative Follow The Money, provides a platform for communities to track government and international aid funds for building of schools, restoration of healthcare facilities and installation of WASH facilities.
Water is an essential necessity of life; as a matter of fact, water is a matter of life and death. Every Nigerian child deserves safe water and adequate sanitation in School, every healthcare centre deserves WASH facilities especially in relation to maternal and new-born health (MNH), every Nigerian household deserves clean drinking water and a basic toilet and, every community deserves to be open defecation free.
It is time to take greater action. I therefore call on the Nigerian government and relevant stakeholders to accelerate efforts to improve access to WASH facilities across communities in Nigeria by adopting innovative and sustainable global best practices and institutionalising inclusive WASH policies.