An international non-governmental organisation, WaterAid, has disclosed that poor water, sanitation and hygiene is costing Nigeria around N455 billion, equivalent to 1.3 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) each year.
The organisation, through its Nigerian office, also said lack of such essential services creates a massive crisis for developing countries like Nigeria â€“ undermining health systems, education, economic development, and progress on gender equality.
The assertions were contained in a release issued by Communications & Campaigns Manager, WaterAid Nigeria, Mr. Oluseyi Abdulmalik, and titled â€˜International Womenâ€™s Day, WaterAid working to â€˜Inspire Changeâ€™ on water and sanitationâ€™. The IWD is marked on March 8, every year.
According to the release, â€œLife without access to clean water and toilets is tough for everybody. But the consequences of not having these basic services affect women and girls the most. That is why on this International Womenâ€™s Day, WaterAid is reflecting again on the one in three women around the world who are still without clean, safe water and sanitation.
â€œThe theme for this yearâ€™s International Womenâ€™s Day is â€˜Inspire Changeâ€™ and WaterAid is working hard to inspire change for the many women in some of the worldâ€™s poorest countries who still bear most of the burden caused by a lack of safe water and sanitation â€“ long hours spent trekking for water, ill health, and vulnerability if they must defecate in the open.
â€œWomen and girls who must spend hours a day seeking water cannot spend that time at school or in income-generating activities. Eliminating that burden, and giving girls the time and opportunity to focus on education, will ultimately lead to healthier, better-educated families, who have a better chance of working their way out of extreme poverty.
â€œAs we mark International Womenâ€™s Day at WaterAid, we are focusing on the 1.25 billion women and girls around the world without proper toilets, and the associated burdens. This is a crisis of massive proportion in health, in education, in economic development and in gender equality that simply cannot continue,â€ said Barbara Frost, CEO of WaterAid International.
According to Country Representative of WaterAid Nigeria, Michael Ojo, â€œthe situation in Nigeria for women lacking these basic services is very critical. Every year, nearly 100,000 mothers in Nigeria will lose a child under the age of five because of a disease brought about due to a lack of access to safe sanitation and clean water. The trauma suffered by these mothers through the loss of a child is just one of the other, but most tragic ways that a lack of sanitation affects women.â€
The release noted that nearly seven in ten women in Nigeria have no access to a safe toilet. To put this in perspective, there are 297 million women across sub-Saharan Africa lacking access to safe and adequate sanitation and 54 million of these are in Nigeria.
â€œOf those in Nigeria, 17 million practice open defecation and that is to say they have no choice but to go to the toilet in the open. For these women, finding a place to go to the toilet over the course of a year, takes up over 3 billion hours.
â€œOvercoming the crisis requires national, state and local governments to stick to their word and to implement the commitments they have made on sanitation and water. The Nigerian Government has pledged to increase the rates of sanitation access from 31 per cent currently to 65 per cent, and water access from 61 per cent to 75 per cent by 2015.
â€œThese are very ambitious targets, particularly considering that Nigeria is one of the few African countries where rates of access to sanitation are actually falling, from 37 per cent of the population in 1990 to 31 per cent today.
â€œThe good news is that the economic benefit to Nigeria would be huge. The World Bank has estimated that every $1 that is invested in sanitation generates an $8 return for the economy. This is probably one of the most â€“ if not the most â€“ effective investment that Nigeria can make to grow its economy and in its womenâ€, the release added.