From Eric Ojo, Abuja
Participants at world water day celebration in Abuja on Tuesday, espoused the need for an accelerated
sanitation programme delivery in Nigeria.
The commemoration of the water day by stakeholders in the sector served as a platform for raising awareness
about the urgent need to provide adequate water supply and sanitation to the people in order to reduce to the
barest minimum the water and sanitation related disease occurrences in the country.
The participants also acknowledged that the event provided an additional opportunity of flagging off the
2008 international year of sanitation (IYS) in Nigeria. In his address at the occasion, Alhaji Abba
Ruma, minister of agriculture and water resources,said that the onus is now on Nigeria to take on the
huge challenges to kick-start the 2008 IYS action plan for the country in order to meet up with the
millennium development goals (MDGs) target for sanitation and hygiene development.
According to him, “As professionals and facilitators of water and sanitation development, we all know that
without basic sanitation the benefits of access to clean water are reduced with consequences of health,
gender and other inequalities that are associated with sanitation affecting progress in education, poverty
reduction and wealth creation.”
Also making his contribution, Dr. Robert Limlim, deputy UNICEF representative in Nigeria, said the
theme for this year’s celebration; ‘sanitation matters’, is in line with the importance of the UnitedNations declaration of 2008 as the international year of sanitation which aims to highlight the sanitationcrisis in countries and strategies to kick-start efforts to accelerate access to sanitation. “We arevery gratified that the government of Nigeria has already developed its IYS action plan through aparticipatory process with three key targets”, he said.Dr. Limlim said UNICEF has strong interest in and commitment to sanitation development in Nigeriabecause it is vital to the health, social and economic development of Nigeria’s children. “We all share ajoint commitment to achieving the millennium development goal sanitation target of reducing by halfthe proportion of people without access to basic sanitation by 2015, and are familiar through oureveryday work of the opportunities and challenges we face in achieving this target. We hope to use theevent to renew our commitment and support to accelerating the progress of improved sanitation andhygiene in this country”, he added.He posited that based on 2006 UNICEF/WHO joint monitoring programme report on sanitation, there is aslight increase in the access to sanitation in Nigeria between 1990 and 2004, however over 70 million peopleare still without basic sanitation and with present trend, it might be difficult to achieve the MDGsanitation target. He observed that children under five are most vulnerable to the effects ofinsufficient sanitation and hygiene, adding that every year, an estimated 150,000 dealths mainly amongstunder five children occur annually due to diarrhea caused by poor sanitation and hygiene practices. Dr.Limlim said UNICEF believes that improving excreta disposal can decrease diarrhea rates by over 35 percent and hand washing with soap at critical times can decrease diarrhea by over 47 per cent. Suchimprovement, according to him, save children’s lives and improve the quality of their living environment.Mr. Jonathan Burton, country representative WaterAid Nigeria, pointed out that there is compelling evidencethat sanitation brings the single greatest public health gains of any policy intervention, yet itremains the most neglected of all sectors, accorded low priority by national governments and donors alike.Mr. Burton said that WaterAid is therefore calling upon government at the federal, state, and localgovernment levels, to take immediate and urgent action. “We are calling for a recognition of thesanitation crisis, an articulation of its integral role in human development, and a strong commitment tooverturn the neglect of the sector”, he said.He further disclosed that WaterAid is aiming to mobilize political will during the IYS 2008 to drawattention to the dire state of nteh people who lack access to sanitation, adding that the current poorprogress against the 2015 MDG for sanitation constitutes a political crisis. For effectiveimplementation, he called for one coordinating body, one national plan and one transparent monitoringframework for sanitation, increased levels of investment delivered to be delivered through aspecific and transparent budget line open to public scrutiny and also broad participation by a wide rangeof stakeholders in the planning and monitoring of sanitation service delivery at national andsub-national levels.