Exploring the Importance, Progress, and Challenges of Clean Water and Sanitation Worldwide

Water is essential for life, health, and well-being. However, millions of people around the world lack access to safe and sufficient water and sanitation services, exposing them to various risks and challenges. This article explores the importance of clean water and sanitation for human and environmental sustainability, and the progress and challenges of achieving the Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG-6), which aims to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030. It also presents the case of Nigeria, one of the countries that faces significant challenges in providing clean water and sanitation for its population, and the efforts and achievements of the government and development partners to address them.

Why Clean Water and Sanitation Matter:

Clean water and sanitation are not only basic human rights, but also key enablers and indicators of sustainable development. They are essential for achieving the other SDGs, such as health, education, gender equality, poverty reduction, and climate action. However, according to the United Nations, about 2.2 billion people do not have safely managed drinking water services, and 4.2 billion people do not have safely managed sanitation services. Moreover, water scarcity affects more than 40% of the global population and is projected to rise due to climate change, population growth, and increasing demand.

The lack of clean water and sanitation has serious consequences for human well-being and sustainable development. Some of the impacts of water and sanitation issues include:

  1. Disease and death: Unsafe water and sanitation are among the leading causes of preventable diseases and deaths, especially for children under five. Every year, about 1.5 million people die from diarrheal diseases, and 297,000 children die before their fifth birthday due to contaminated water, poor sanitation, and hygiene
  2. Poverty and inequality: Lack of access to water and sanitation can trap people in poverty and limit their opportunities and choices. It can affect their income, productivity, and economic growth, as they spend more time and money on fetching water, coping with illnesses, and dealing with water-related disasters.
  3. Environment and climate: Lack of access to water and sanitation can harm the environment and worsen the effects of climate change. It can lead to water pollution, overexploitation, and depletion of water resources, affecting the quality and availability of water for humans and ecosystems. It can also increase greenhouse gas emissions, as more fossil fuels are used for water supply, treatment, and disposal, and as more organic waste is released into the environment.

The Progress and Challenges of Achieving SDG-6

SDG-6 calls for ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030. To achieve this goal, SDG calls for urgent and collective action at all levels, from local to global which involves investing in infrastructure, ensuring accessibility, affordability, and inclusivity, promoting efficiency, conservation, and reuse, protecting ecosystems, and fostering collaboration among stakeholders.

One of the countries that faces significant challenges in providing clean water and sanitation for its population is Nigeria. According to the World Bank, only 10% of the population has access to basic water, sanitation, and hygiene services. 68 million people (33% of the population) lack access to basic drinking water services. 113 million people (55% of the population) lack decent toilets. 48 million people (23% of the population) practice open defecation.

The outdated and inadequate water and sanitation infrastructure, lack of investment, and pollution of water sources due to inadequate waste disposal and industrial practices worsen the issue. As a result, only a small percentage of the population has access to clean and safe drinking water and sanitation facilities.

To address these challenges, the Government of Nigeria has developed several initiatives and policies to improve access to water and sanitation, such as the National Action Plan for the Revitalization of the WASH Sector, the Partnership for Expanded Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (PEWASH), and the Clean Nigeria: Use the Toilet Campaign. These initiatives aim to increase the coverage and quality of water and sanitation services, mobilize resources and investments, strengthen the institutional and regulatory framework, and promote behavior change and community participation.

With the support of development partners, such as the World Bank, UNICEF, and Water Aid, the Government of Nigeria has also implemented various projects and programs to provide water and sanitation infrastructure, services, and governance, and ensure their sustainability and inclusiveness. Some of the achievements include:

  1. The construction of over 2,300 additional Water Points, and 6,546 sanitation compartments and hygiene facilities across the country, benefiting more than 1.6 million people.
  2. The declaration of open defecation free status by over 10,000 communities in 24 states, reaching more than 8 million people.
  3. The provision of water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities and services in over 3,000 schools and 1,000 health care facilities, improving the learning and health outcomes of children and women.
  4. The establishment and strengthening of water and sanitation committees, associations, and agencies at the state and local levels, enhancing the management, operation, and maintenance of water and sanitation systems.

These efforts have contributed to the improvement of the water and sanitation situation in Nigeria, but more needs to be done to achieve the SDG-6 targets and ensure that no one is left behind. Achieving universal and sustainable access to water and sanitation in Nigeria requires extraordinary efforts from all stakeholders, including the government, the private sector, the civil society, and the communities. It also requires adopting a human rights-based and gender-sensitive approach that recognizes the needs, preferences, and voices of different groups, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized.

In conclusion, clean water and sanitation, fundamental for life and dignity, lay the groundwork for a better future. Foundational to multiple SDGs, they are integral for health, education, gender equality, poverty reduction, and climate action. By ensuring universal access, we pave the way for a flourishing future for generations to come.

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