WaterAid Nigeria has reiterated the important roles access to clean water and good hygiene play, if we are to defeat pandemic as a people.

According to a press statement issued yesterday Friday, “The importance and effectiveness of frequent and thorough handwashing with soap and water to halt the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases are well known; yet many in Nigeria remain without these basic life-saving services – 60 million without access to basic water supply and 150 million without access to handwashing facilities with soap and water.

“Handwashing with soap and clean water is one of the simplest and most cost-effective public health interventions and the first line of defence against the spread of diseases such as COVID-19. Much of the challenge of poor access to water, sanitation and hygiene is experienced in the rural, small towns and urban slum areas of Nigeria and also among the poorest households and vulnerable and marginalised populations irrespective of locations. For example, consider the following:

The wealthiest households are more than ten times more likely to have access to basic water, sanitation and hygiene services than the poorest households.
Only 8% of those in the rural areas have access to complete basic water, sanitation and hygiene services – compared to 18% of people in urban areas.

Millions in Nigeria, including about half of all rural dwellers, have to trek long distances and spend more than 30 minutes to get water and usually from unimproved sources.
It is critical that interventions to curtail the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic reach everyone, everywhere and we leave no one behind.

In spite of the measures put in place to curtail the spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria, there are no indications that the spread of the disease is abating. On the contrary, Nigeria is now experiencing massive community transmission of the disease. The inadequacy of palliatives provided to address the harsh economic reality of the pandemic, a lack of facilities and supplies for taking the necessary preventive hygiene measures and the apparent lack of compliance with hygiene and social distancing guidelines by many citizens stress the need for Nigeria to have a more holistic and coordinated approach to curtailing the spread of this disease.

Clean water, decent sanitation facilities and good hygiene practices are an indispensable element in the fight to prevent the spread of the pandemic and the foundation that underpins almost all of the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly health. Therefore, in the face of this pandemic, a water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) response is a health response. Strong health systems need strong WASH systems. We therefore call on the Federal Government to ensure representation from the Federal Ministry of Water Resources in its national response and on the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.

The Federal Government must also take urgent steps to fast-track the implementation of activities laid out in the National WASH Action Plan, leveraging on the Clean Nigeria: Use the Toilet campaign to drive and champion key hygiene behaviours crucial to halting the spread of COVID-19.

Statistics shows that only 5% of healthcare institutions in Nigeria have access to combined water, sanitation and hygiene facilities. We are calling on the government at all levels to ensure that all isolation, testing and treatment centres have safely managed, reliable and inclusive water, sanitation and hygiene facilities to meet workers and patients’ needs in the fight against the pandemic. Urgent steps must also be made to ensure that all healthcare facilities across the country are provided with inclusive, equitable water, sanitation and hygiene facilities.

The organisation, however calls on donors, bilateral and multilateral donor agencies and the private sector to provide rapid, flexible funding and technical assistance to government-led efforts to promote good hygiene behaviour and build water, sanitation and hygiene systems that will support immediate emergency interventions around COVID-19.

Along with many others in the sector, WaterAid is urgently scaling up activities to make sure that the public understands the importance of handwashing with soap and clean water. We are also working in collaboration with the Federal Government on a WASH response that includes promoting good hygiene behaviour.

“We’re doing the same with state governments of our focal states as well as supporting to put handwashing facilities in public places to ensure that many more people can protect themselves, their families and communities from this devastating virus. Everyone needs to do their part.” said the statement.

Clean water, decent sanitation facilities and good hygiene practices form the crucial bedrock of public health and without them, Nigeria cannot hope to end the coronavirus pandemic or avert future disease outbreaks and pandemics. Now, more than ever, there is need for partnerships, collaboration and urgent collective action to build resilient water, sanitation and hygiene systems, to control and overcome COVID-19, prevent the next pandemic, and build sustainable, resilient services that can deliver health and dignity for all.

By Dotun Roy

DotunRoy.com is a development driven news website with the overall goal of amplifying, promoting and advocating for positive societal change through Sustainable Development advocacy in line with UN SDGs components such as education, environmental sustainability and Climate Change, Human Rights, health, finance, housing, good governance as well as security in Nigeria and across the world.

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