Saving 1000 children who die daily from water and sanitation-related diseases

Hand washing“Water has no enemy” goes a saying. Then, how can the world have access to this ‘water’ that is supposed to be everyone’s friend? The world we live in cannot be sustained without access to clean water for all. No doubt, there is enough water on planet earth to ensure access to clean water. According to the United Nations, “But due to bad economics or poor infrastructure, every year millions of people, most of them children, die from diseases associated with inadequate water supply, sanitation and hygiene.”

The global statistics are looking too good: 2.6 billion people have gained access to improved drinking water sources since 1990, but 663 million people are still without; At least 1.8 billion people globally use a source of drinking water that is fecally contaminated; Between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of the global population using an improved drinking water source has increased from 76 per cent to 91 per cent; But water scarcity affects more than 40 per cent of the global population and is projected to rise. Over 1.7 billion people are currently living in river basins where water use exceeds recharge; 2.4 billion people lack access to basic sanitation services, such as toilets or latrines; More than 80 per cent of wastewater resulting from human activities is discharged into rivers or sea without any pollution removal; and Each day, nearly 1,000 children die due to preventable water and sanitation-related diarrhoeal diseases.

The above challenges need to be addressed seriously and one of the ways the entire world, of course, including Nigeria, is looking at this is through the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Goal 6 seeks to ensure access to water and sanitation for all.

To achieve the above Goal 6, a number of targets have been identified. These include: By 2030, achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all; By 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations; By 2030, improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally; By 2030, substantially increase water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity and substantially reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity; By 2030, implement integrated water resources management at all levels, including through transboundary cooperation as appropriate; and by 2020, protect and restore water-related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes; among others.

Linked to water scarcity, poor water quality and inadequate sanitation are challenges of food insecurity, livelihood and educational opportunities. Drought worsens hunger and cases of malnutrition in some of the world’s poorest countries.

The situation not beyond redemption. Something needs to be done. Someone needs to do something. The government needs to prioritise the water and sanitation sector to improve the health and wellbeing of its citizenry.

Clean water and sanitation is at the core of national development. The nation’s productivity would be strengthened if the workforce gets sick very few times due to improved access to clean water and sanitation.

To the people we say desist from open defecation; do not defecate or empty solid waste into the river which many, down the stream, use as their main source of water. Your health is the nation’s wealth.

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, ‘Ensure access to water and sanitation for all’, is a call to action to save this generation and yet to come, from this unfolding tragedy where nearly 1,000 innocent children who have the fundamental right to be cared for and be protected die due to preventable water and sanitation-related diarrhoeal diseases.