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78 million Nigerian children risk dying from water-related diseases – UNICEF

The United Nations Children’s Fund Nigerian (UNICEF) Chief on water, sanitation and hygiene, Dr Jane Bevan, has said that 78 million children in Nigeria are at great risk of dying from water-related diseases.

Bevan made this known in a press release ahead of the 2023 United Nations (UN) Water Conference to be held in New York, from March 22-24, 2023.

The conference, which will be co-hosted by Tajikistan and the Netherlands, will offer an opportunity for urgent action to be taken to tackle the water crisis in Nigeria.

The UN 2023 Water Conference, formally known as the 2023 Conference for the Midterm Comprehensive Review of Implementation of the UN Decade for Action on Water and Sanitation (2018-2028), will involve six plenary sessions, and five interactive dialogues, as well as side events organized by participants.

It will result in a summary of proceedings from the UN General Assembly President, Csaba Korosi, that will feed into the 2023 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable annulment.

The analysis of the report revealed that “Seventy-eight million children in Nigeria are at the highest risk from a convergence of three water-related threats – inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene; related diseases; and climate hazards.

“In Nigeria, one-third of children do not have access to at least basic water at home, and two-thirds do not have basic sanitation services. Hand hygiene is also limited, with three-quarters of children unable to wash their hands due to a lack of water and soap at home. As a result, Nigeria is one of the 10 countries that carry the heaviest burden of child deaths from diseases caused by inadequate WASH, such as diarrhoeal diseases.

“Nigeria also ranks second out of 163 countries globally with the highest risk of exposure to climate and environmental threats. Groundwater levels are also dropping, requiring some communities to dig wells twice as deep as just a decade ago. At the same time, rainfall has become more erratic and intense, leading to floods that contaminate scarce water supplies,” Dr Bevan expressed.

She said there is an urgent need to invest in the sector, including global climate financing, strengthening climate resilience in the WASH sector and communities, increasing effective and accountable systems, coordination, and capacities to provide water and sanitation services and implement the UN-Water SDG six Global Acceleration Framework.

“If we continue at the current pace, it will take 16 years to achieve access to safe water for all in Nigeria. We cannot wait that long, and the time to move quickly is now.

Investing in climate-resilient water, sanitation, and hygiene services is not only a matter of protecting children’s health today but also ensuring a sustainable future for generations to come,” she said.


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