Dennis Aizobu, a pharmacist, heads the Society for Family Health’s Water Project where he provides strategic direction and guidance to the development and design of all water treatment solutions and community based programmes aimed at improving access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene. As we celebrate World Water Day today, he shares his insights with The Interview. Excerpts:
How would you rate access to safe water in Nigeria presently?
Access to safe water is still a challenge in Nigeria, with only 59.6 per cent of the population having access to improved sources of drinking water.
Statistics shows that only about 61 per cent of households in Nigeria have access to an improved source of drinking water, with 77 per cent of such in urban areas and 39 per cent in the rural areas.
This challenge from data is worse in the rural areas. More Nigerians now provide water for themselves. According to MICS 2015, the most common single source of drinking water is a well or borehole (40 per cent urban households and 32 per cent of rural households).
The theme of this year’s World Water Day is ‘Leaving No One Behind’. How would you react to this theme with regards to the situation of water availability in Nigeria?
This is coming at the right time. The issue around availability of water requires access to safe drinking water by all.
There is a correlation between poverty, sanitation and access to water, the cumulative effect of these results in increasing water borne diseases such as cholera, typhoid, diarrhea and other diseases.
We are aware that this has a huge effect on the money spent on healthcare by families, economy and the country’s GDP on the long run.
About 124,000 children under five years die annually from diarrhea, a water borne disease which contributes to our high mortality and morbidity rate
Since it was first observed in March 22, 1993, World Water Day has been an annual campaign to highlight the importance of water. To what extent has this helped to solve access to safe water issues in Nigeria?
It has helped to remind all critical stakeholders, which include government, policy makers, communities, households and all on the need to provide safe water.
About 124,000 children under five years die annually from diarrhea, a water borne disease which contributes to our high mortality and morbidity rate.
Recently the government is encouraging PPP participation in safe water provision. The aim of this is to support the government in the provision of safe water and supply across the country.
Are there lessons Nigeria can learn from countries that have made huge progress enhancing access to safe water for their citizens?
There are huge lessons for our country, we must continue to engage with other countries to find cost effective ways and new technology to drive creative means of improving water supply to all Nigerians. The outcome of this will result in improve sanitation, better living conditions and reduction in mortality and morbidity.
With such engagements in the last five years 10 LGAs in Nigeria have been declared open defecation free.
There is a correlation between poverty, sanitation and access to water, the cumulative effect of these results in increasing water borne diseases such as cholera, typhoid, diarrhea and other diseases
One of the rationales for World Water Day is to inspire people around the world to learn more about water-related issues and also take action to make a difference. Are there new developments on how to keep water safe that citizens need to know?
There is so much partners like Society for Family health (SFH) is contributing to improvement in the quality of water.
Society for Family Health (SFH) a leading Non-governmental Organization involved in providing solutions to safe drinking water since 2005.
Our support has resulted in the creation of a point of use water solution called WaterGuard. This point of use water treatment product was introduced to help families provide safe drinking water in their homes.
We also work with P&G to provide readily and very affordable P&G purifier powder as a water treatment solution in the rural areas particularly with turbid water.
We are working with key partners globally to develop and introduce affordable and easy to use technology for water treatment in Nigeria.
We are supporting the government in providing these solutions particularly, with the declaration of emergency in water sector by the government.
Our social market approach is to support product and market development which will ensure sustainability and help the nation in achieving the SDG goals as it relates to water supply, sanitation and hygiene.
With support from donors, SFH carries out community level behaviour change communication activities, which is aimed at creating awareness and empower communities and individuals to treat their water, practice good hygiene and sanitation.
It is a way of using community resources and involvement of other stakeholders to support provision of safe and affordable water in our communities.
Continuous support of all stakeholders will help to monitor all the several water project, support community based water provision system and ensure sustainability of the water supply system in the country
Last year, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported that 69 million Nigerians do not have access to safe water, while 19 million have to walk long distances to get water; in what ways can other stakeholders (not just government) get involved to bridge this huge gap?
Stakeholders have a huge role to play. The government recently promoted a PPP policy within the water sector. This has opened the space and participation of stakeholders to address these challenges.
The cost of building dams and piping is huge and with decreasing funding to this sector, stakeholders can help to make impact.
Our belief is that this policy with support of stakeholders will help to improve access to water to millions of Nigeria and reduction in distances worked daily by caregivers, women and children to provide water for their families.
This group largely bears the burden created by poor access to water. Stakeholders can also help to contribute to improving current policies and support relevant bodies to drive policies which are aimed at improving water supply.
Continuous support of all stakeholders will help to monitor all the several water project, support community based water provision system and ensure sustainability of the water supply system in the country.
The ultimate goal of this will help to improve the economy as well as social and health outcomes.