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World Water Day 2013: WASH journalists urge govt to fulfill commitments

The Water and Sanitation Media Network, a coalition of journalists reporting water and sanitation issues in Nigeria, has called on the Federal Government to accelerate access to safe drinking water and sanitation services by fulfilling the commitments it made at high level meetings to leverage additional financing to develop the nation’s water and sanitation sector.

Open defacation

In a statement released to mark the World Water Day, March 22, the Water and Sanitation Media Network notes with regret that the Federal Government has failed to fulfill none of the 26 commitments it made at the high level meetings.

“Nigeria has not fully achieved any of the 26 WASH commitments it voluntarily made in several high level meetings between 2000 and 2012. These commitments made at four high level meetings between 2000 and 2012: the World Summit in Johannesburg in 2000; United Nations Assembly, New York in 2010; African Sanitation and Hygiene conference, eThekwini in 2011; and the Sanitation and Water for All meeting in Washington, in 2012. But none of them have been fulfilled so far by the Nigerian Government,” said the Network.

The body says ‘this explains why 35 million Nigerians still defecate in the open, about 90 million are without access to safe drinking water, and 130,000 under-five Nigerian children die annually from preventable water borne disease.

Some of the unfulfilled commitments are listed to include:

1. Harmonisaiton of water and sanitation policies;

2. Promoting WASH in schools;

3. Intensify increasing water and sanitation budgets by 15%;

4. Ensuring  at least 0.5% of the Gross Domestic Product to promoting sanitation and hygiene;

5. Declaring access to water and sanitation a human right;

6. Encouraging state and local governments to  create budget lines for sanitation;

7. Scaling up community-led total sanitation in the 36 states;

8. Increasing national access to improved sanitation to 65% by 2015; and

9. Increasing national  access to improved water by at least 5%  by 2014.

The body therefore called on the Federal Government in Nigeria to keep its promises and initiate practical policies, programmes and projects to develop the country’s WASH sector, and improve access to WASH services.

As the World marks the 2013 World Water Day, the Water and Sanitation Media Network notes: “Access to improved water and sanitation still remains a major challenge in Nigeria. Water and sanitation coverage in Nigeria are among the lowest in the world.  According to the 2008 report of the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP), Nigeria is in the bottom 25 countries worldwide in terms of water and sanitation coverage. At the current rate of progress, Nigeria is predicted to meet the water MDG target in 27 years but may not meet the sanitation MDG target for 124 years.

“The Nigerian MDG national targets are 82% for water and 65% for sanitation. Estimates of the investment in water supply and sanitation required to meet these MDG based targets range from $2.5 billion (MDG Office) to $4 billion annually ($1.7 billion for water supply and $2.3 billion for sanitation—CSO2 costing). Out of the calculated $2.5 billion annual investment required to meet the MDG targets, only about $550 million is being injected by the Nigerian Government due to limited resources and competing needs, leaving a huge investment gap to achieve these targets.

“On the occasion of the 2013 World Water Day celebration on March 22, the Water and Sanitation Media Network urges the Nigerian Government to stop ‘talking the talk’ but  start ‘walking the talk’, because 33 million people are without toilets, over 868,000 Nigerian children die each year, about a quarter of which are from water-related and vaccine preventable diseases such as pneumonia, diarrhea, meningitis and measles; and, according to a UNDP report, Nigeria may not achieve the MDG water target before 2046 and that of sanitation by 2076.

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