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Achieving the WASH MDGs: Putting Nigeria on track

A slum in Lagos, Nigeria

By Babatope Babalobi

Access to improved water and sanitation is generally a major challenge in Nigeria. Water and Sanitation coverage in Nigeria are amongst the lowest in the world.  According to the 2008  report of the WHO/UNICEF JMP Joint Monitoring Programme, Nigeria is in the bottom 25 countries worldwide in terms of water and sanitation coverage. Nigeria, like several other sub Saharan African countries is not on track to reach the MDG targets of 75%  coverage for improved drinking water and 63% coverage for  improved sanitation by the year 2015. If the present pattern of water coverage continues only 74.8 m out of the estimated 170m will be using water from improved sources in 2015.

This figure represents 52.7m people short of the MDG target. For sanitation, if Nigeria continues at the current rate, only 57.8 million out of the estimated 170m people will have access to improved sanitation facilities in 2015, which represents 61.2 million people short of the MDG target for improved sanitation.

Generally, lack of access to basic sanitation facilities coupled with poor hygiene practices causes diarrhoea which is the 2nd largest direct cause of childhood mortality in Nigeria. Lack of safe, private toilets and hand washing facilities in schools affects educational enrolment and performance. UNICEF state of the  World’s Children 2007 report estimates that poor sanitation is a contributing factor n Nigeria’s low girl enrolment rates-7% points  behind boys. On economic development, it is also estimated that 10 million productive days would be gained if access to both water and sanitation rose to 100% (WaterAid calculations for Nigeria using methodology from Evaluation of the costs and Benefits of Water and Sanitation Improvements, WHO 2004)

The Water supply and Monitoring Platform fact sheet 2009 also points out two key messages. First, women and girls bear the greatest burden for collecting water in Nigeria when drinking water is not available in the premises; and second,  people living below poverty line have less access to water.

The international community has committed itself to halving by 2015 the proportion of people without access to water and sanitation along with other targets, known as the Millennium Development Goals. Four studies have indicated that Nigeria like many other Sub Saharan African countries is not on track to achieve these targets.

A 2005 report by the Department for International Development was one of such. This report was an outcome of a study commissioned by DFID to compare characteristics of countries that are on and off track to achieve MDG Target 10 for water. The situation in 11 Africa and Asia countries were studied, and its findings state that Nigeria and six other countries (among the 11 studied) were “off track” towards achieving the MDG goals for water and sanitation.

The UNICEF/WHO Joint Monitoring Programme report 2006  also states that while” Sub-Saharan Africa continues to make progress in providing services to the unserved, with a 7 percentage point increase from 1990 to 2004; yet current coverage levels are extremely low. At the current pace of development, sub-Saharan Africa will fail to reach the MDG drinking water target”.

In particular reference to Nigeria, the report says unless current trends are reversed the country like several other African countries may not meet the MDG goals for water and sanitation.  Buttressing this position, the report further states that drinking water coverage in Nigeria fell from 49% in 1990 to 48% in 2004, whereas coverage of 65% (by 2004) was required to keep Nigeria on track towards achieving the MDG. Also, though sanitation coverage rose from 39% in 1990 to 44% in 2004, coverage of 58% by 2004 was required to put Nigeria on track.

Similarly, a World Bank project performance and assessment study produced by the Bank’s Independent Evaluation Group also raised fears on Nigeria’s march towards the MDG goals in the water and sanitation sector. The Bank’s Independent Evaluation Group  assesses the programs and activities of the World Bank for two purposes: first, to ensure the integrity of the Bank’s self-evaluation process and to verify that the Bank’s work is producing the expected results. Second, to help develop improved directions, policies, and procedures through the dissemination of lessons drawn from experience. The Group in its June 13, 2006 report states inter alia:

“it is highly unlikely that Nigeria will meet its water supply and sanitation targets under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It has long been thought that the service coverage in urban areas is 50 percent for water supply. Based on a sample of towns and cities included in the three projects it seems that water service is accessible to no more than a quarter of the urban population (in the case of Kaduna state) and often to as few as 10 percent. Thus there is a threat that service coverage seems to be dropping rather than rising as the country approaches the 2015 MDG target year”

The fourth study that confirmed Nigeria’s rating as off track is the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human development Index 2006 which says Nigeria has a ‘Low human development water, sanitation and nutritional status’ , and the UNDP rated it 159th out of the 177 countries studied. Specifically, the UNDP report says the population with sustainable access to improved sanitation is 39% in 1990 and 44% in 2004, while the population with sustainable access to improved water source was 49% in 1990 and 48% in 2004.  The report further says  that on current trends Sub-Saharan Africa will reach the water target in 2040 and the sanitation target in 2076.

However, the UNDP report also states that the targets in all countries including Nigeria are achievable with greater political will and resources:

“The word crisis is sometimes overused in development. But when it comes to water, there is a growing recognition that the world faces a crisis that, left unchecked, will derail progress towards the Millennium Development Goals and hold back human development. For some, the global water crisis is about absolute shortages of physical supply. The UNDP Report rejects this view. It argues that the roots of the crisis in water can be traced to poverty, inequality and unequal power relationships, as well as flawed water management policies that exacerbate scarcity”

Similar views were stated in a National Water Sector Assessment Study released by WaterAid Nigeria in July 2006:

“Nigeria faces major challenges in reaching its water and sanitation MDGs. The unavailability of accurate data makes it impossible to accurately determine if the country is on-target or off-target in meeting the MDGs. Though more resources are being allocated to water, they are still inadequate and there is no sanitation budget. Those resources, which are available, are often not fully disbursed or available too late for effective use. Project arte frequently top-down without the participation needed for sustainability. Politicians fail to agree on the tariff structures needed to underpin the financial autonomy of urban utilities”

The DFID study earlier referred to in this chapter, lists the common characteristics within the water sector of on track countries can be summarized as follows:

• The reform agenda for these countries tends to be owned and driven by government, rather than    external agents who are generally decreasing their overall presence in the sector, bar one or two lead agencies.

• Government expresses the linkages between water, poverty and economic development in high-level policy frameworks.

• NGOs can be very effective advocates and informal “regulators” of decision-making in the sector, via the use of public opinion, which in turn has helped to drive water as a policy issue.

• Implementation of water sector reform, as detailed in key policy documentation, tends to be active. It is likely that SWAs may be in place, together with medium term financing plans, pooled donor funding and other forms of institutional coordination.

• Issues of effective decentralisation (autonomy of decision making and financial management) and Monitoring and Evaluation in the sector are, in most cases, weak relative to the other water sector governance factors.

It is important to note, however, that while these countries tend to be on track at the aggregate at national level, there may be many important issues relating to effectiveness, equity and sustainability of water supply, especially at the sub national level.

The UNDP Human Development Index report 2006, which focuses on the theme “Beyond Crises: Power, Politics and the Global Water Crises”, argues that “ the crisis in water and sanitation is—above all— a crisis for the poor. Almost two in three people lacking access to clean water survive on less than $2 a day, with one in three living on less than $1 a day. More than 660 million people without sanitation live on less than $2 a day, and more than 385 million on less than $1 a day. These facts have important public policy implications. They point clearly towards the limited capacity of unserved populations to finance improved access through private spending. While the private sector may have a role to play in delivery, public financing holds the key to overcoming deficits in water and sanitation”. The UNDP HDI 2006 outlines the four ways out of what it calls mismanagement of water resources.

(a)    Make water a human right—and mean it. All governments should go beyond vague constitutional principles to enshrine the human right to water in enabling legislation.

(b)   Draw up national strategies for water and sanitation. All governments should prepare national plans for accelerating progress in water and sanitation, with ambitious targets backed by financing and clear strategies for overcoming inequalities.

(c) Support national plans with international aid. For many of the poorest countries development assistance is critical.

(a) Develop a global action plan.

In response to these challenges, the Federal Government of Nigeria launched the ‘‘Nigeria Water Sector Roadmap’ in January 2011

The Roadmap articulates Government’s  objectives in developing the nation’s water resources over a Short term, medium term and long term period.  According to the Honourable Minister of Water Resource, Chief Obadiah Ando, its aim is to position ‘Nigerian water sector effectively to achieve the 2015 MDGs, the Vision 20:2020 and ultimately the African Water targets’

According to the Roadmap, Service coverage in the country is 58% for water supply and 32% for sanitation. Given an estimated. population of 157m,  about 70 million Nigerians are without access to water supply while 104 million – no access to sanitation. About 194,000 Nigerian children under 5 years old die annually due to cholera, diarrhoea and other related water borne diseases. This indicates 868 Nigerian children die on a daily basis due to water borne diseases. With an estimated population size of 289 million by year 2050, Nigeria needs 56billion litres of water per day of potable water supply for domestic use only. An annual estimate of $2.5 billion is required to meet the water and sanitation target between 2011 and 2015.

In March 2011, the Bread of Life Development Foundation in conjunction with the Water and Sanitation Media Network both Nigeria civil society groups organised a Water and Sanitation dialogue to review the ‘Nigeria Water Sector Roadmap’

Stakeholders at the dialogue however pointed several shortcomings of the ‘Nigeria Water Sector Roadmap’.

Juanita During, Head of Governance of the WaterAid in Nigeria said “On the whole, the RoadMap is largely silent on Sanitation.  Although the MDG for meeting this important target is stated , there is no clear plan of how this will be achieved. There is also a need to raise the profile of sanitation and hygiene in the country to beyond just acknowledging the problem to actually putting in place clear, time bound action plans for addressing this near crisis status of sanitation and hygiene;  and proposed plans and investment for water supply should be centred around technology options that are amongst other things :environmentally friendly,Energy efficient, Sustainable, and can be locally resourced and managed by community members

To fast track the process of meeting the WASH MDGs in Nigeria, Juanita During advocated for the recognition of the central role of WASH in improved health outcomes, livelihood, and overall development, emphasizes the need to harness local capacity, promote inclusive participation, strengthen community financing mechanisms and close policy gaps.;  Intervention in the WASH sector should be focused on the bottom –up approach with the full participation, involvement and engagement of the people of Nigeria at all levels; sector actors should  support global processes and commitments such as the Sanitation and Water for All initiative(SWA-GFA) towards accelerating equitable and inclusive access to WASH service delivery in line with the MDGs; and lastly the Federal Government should  continue to strengthen national efforts towards meeting existing commitments such as the 2008 eThekwini Declaration promise to spend 0.5% of GDP on sanitation.

However,  an expert say that the plan to revamp Nigeria’s water infrastructure is a capital-intensive one.

Mr Benson Ajisegiri, the National Project Coordinator of the World Bank-Assisted National Urban Water Sector Reform Project says that Nigeria needs about N215 billion annually to effectively develop its water infrastructure and meet the targets of the MDGs in the water and sanitation sector by 2015.

Ajisegiri, , says that the water infrastructure’s development project requires the active cooperation of three tiers of government for it to be successful.

“About N215 billion ought to be invested annually in programmes to put in place appropriate infrastructure so as to meet the MDGs target for water supply,

“From the Country Status Overview (CSO) study that was carried out, we observed that not more than N82.5 billion is currently being invested in the sector in Nigeria.

“This is less than a quarter of what is expected to be invested on water supply by the three tiers of government every year,’’ he says.

Ajisegiri, who also is an official of the Department of Water Supply, Federal Ministry of Water Resources, says that the ministry has developed an investment guideline to mobilise funds to fill perceptible funding gaps.

He says that the investment guideline — Water Investment Mobilisation and Application Guidelines (WIMAG) – will be useful in mobilising funds for the development of the water infrastructure.

“What we are trying to do is to use it as a central mechanism for mobilising funds from the three tiers of government, the private sector and external support agencies so that we can have a pool of funds which we can use to finance water projects.

“It is nothing other than to just have an instrument that will enable us to apply funds appropriately and this will considerably boost our implementation of the sector’s reform,’’ he says.

Ajisegiri, nonetheless, expresses the hope that WIMAG will be useful in the Federal Government’s efforts to address the funding constraints in the sector holistically.

Babatope Babalobi with reports from Daily Champion

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