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The UNICEF staff association has donated medical equipment to a PHC in kano.

Access to Water, a Human Right — UNICEF Chief

Dr Jane Bevan, UNICEF’s Chief of Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) in Nigeria, believes that access to safe drinking water is a distinct human right.

She said this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Tuesday in Abuja, ahead of the 2023 World Water Day which has “Accelerating Change” as its theme.

According to the UNICEF chief, every citizen has the right to safe water and should be able to exercise it.

She also said that the impact of climate change, the problem of access to water and the diseases that result like cholera, which kill mostly children are the focus of this year’s commemoration.

She added that Nigeria is among 10 high burden countries in Sub Saharan Africa with the tripartite problem “and unfortunately,

“If you don’t have access to safe water, there are numerous knock on effects. For example, if children have to go long distances to fetch water, they are often missing out on education.

“Similarly, if women have to go and fetch water, they are often missing out on earning an income. They cannot do other jobs whilst they are busy just fetching water to survive and then if the water is of poor quality, or is infected with anything, people are going to get sick.

“It’s often the children that bear the brunt. We have such a high under five mortality rate in this country and children often are the worst affected by anything like cholera or outbreaks of diarrheal disease.

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“Then the water scarcity has a whole load of hygiene related diseases as well. So, just little things like scabies and other diseases that really could be prevented, and many diseases that you might not be aware of are often related, such as Neglected Tropical Diseases.”

Bevan also said that diseases like trachoma, which is an infection of the eyes, onchocerciasis and schistosomiasis were related to poor quality water and unsafe water practices.

The WASH chief added that children being affected by poor and unsafe water meant that they were not realising their full potential in a lot of ways.

“For women, it is the same, if you are so busy collecting water or getting sick you are really losing out on income generation opportunities to further your own best interests.

“It virtually keeps women prisoner to their basic functions of running a household if they cannot have access to safe water”, she added.

On meeting the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 on water and sanitation for all by 2030, Bevan said Nigeria like many other countries, was lagging behind.

She said that this was a huge challenge and at the moment, Nigeria has between 60 to 70 per cent of coverage of water, meaning really shows that with the current rate of acceleration, Nigeria couldn’t possibly meet the SDGs until considerably later.

According to her, it may take about 16 years at the current trajectory unless coverage is accelerated.

She, however, said that one of the principle issues that UNICEF has been supporting the Federal Ministry of Water Resources on is looking at sustainability.

This, she said, was because even the existing facilities were sometimes falling into disrepair and not being fixed.