Nigeria: Millions Lack Access to Clean Water

FILE - Children treck long distances to fetch water, near Minawao refugee camp in northern Cameroon, Feb. 9 2018. (M. Kindzeka/VOA)
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ABUJA, NIGERIA — A survey conducted by Nigeria’s Bureau of Statistics 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.

Ruth Samuel and her four children live here in an uphill settlement on the outskirts of Abuja.

But every day, they struggle for water, sometimes spending many hours scooping water from a ground spring.

“Like in the dry season, we wake up by 2, 3 a.m.,” she said. “Before you get there you will not see water, you’ll have to wait.”

1/3 or more without clean water

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 figure may have been underestimated.

“I think that 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 don’t have access to clean water,” he said.

Like many other states in Nigeria’s northern region, the federal district of Abuja lies on the fringes of the Sahel desert.

That means in the dry season when the water level is low, sources like this could dry up, leaving thousands here who rely on it daily in dire need.

Infrastructure needed

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.”

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.

The government launched an emergency action plan in November to address water problems but it has yet to make much of an impact.

And until the rains return, Ruth Samuel and many others here will have to rely primarily on a water source that is drying out.

Timothy Obiezu I VOA