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  • Writer's pictureEnyenaweh Research

Sustainable Solutions To WASH Challenges in Nigeria


The realization that provision of water is indeed of the most important prerequisites for improving the people quality of life, lead to the launch of the international drinking water supply and sanitation decade (IDWSSD) by the general assembly of the United Nations in November 1980 with the goal to provide all people with water of safe quality and adequate quantity and basic sanitary facilities. Human life like all animal and plant life on the planet is dependent on water. Not only do we need water to grow our food, generate our power and industries also need water, is necessary for sanitation and health and are therefore very critical not only as a human right, but also as a step to National Development and poverty reduction. It is estimated that about 780 million people (11% of the world’s population) do not have access to an improved water supply according to the world health organization and UNICEF, with 48.84% of the people living in rural areas in Nigeria as at 2019 according to the world bank collection of development indicators and according to the national routine outcome mapping on WASH 2019 Nigerian Ministry of Water Resources and National Bureau of Statistics 9% of Nigeria's population have access to basic water, sanitation, hygiene services.

Situation of WASH in Nigeria

Nigeria currently is ranked amongst the highest number of people – about 90 million - living in extreme poverty in the world, representing nearly half the population. While there are challenges in all sectors, data coming from the water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) sector are particularly alarming. Findings in 2018 WASH National Outcome Routine Mapping, a survey conducted by the Nigerian Ministry of Water Resources and National Bureau of Statistics, with support from UNICEF, revealed that only 11 percent of the population, 7 percent of schools and 5 percent of health facilities have access to basic WASH services and findings in 2019 revealed that 9 percent of the population, with an improvement of 14 percent of schools and 7 percent of health facilities have access to basic WASH services.

However, a recent 2020 report from UNICEF has revealed that Nigeria is making some progress in improving access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) to its population, with 70 percent of Nigerians having access to basic drinking water services. However, the amount and quality of water for individual use is lower than the required standard. The average amount of water each person receives in Nigeria is 9 liters per day. The minimum acceptable range is between 12 and 16 liters per day, according to national standards.

The report, released by Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Water Resources and UNICEF, shows that;

● one-third of the population drinks contaminated water at home and 46 million people are still practicing open defecation.

● At least 167 million homes do not have access to handwashing facilities – especially worrying in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, with handwashing being a critical infection prevention practice.

● Results from the survey highlighted a slight reduction in the number of people defecating in the open, moving from 47 million in 2018 to 46 million people in 2019. At the same time, the number of people using basic sanitation services has increased by 6.6 million people, a progress mostly driven by a rise in the number of people upgrading their current toilets to improved private toilets within their homes.

Last year, the Nigerian government launched a campaign to end open defecation in Nigeria and is committed to ending the practice by 2025. Access to quality WASH services is a fundamental right and in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, this has proven to be even more crucial,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF representative in Nigeria, when launching the report, “Today, the importance of adequate and safe water, basic sanitation and proper hand hygiene practices in stemming not only the spread of COVID-19, but also many other preventable illnesses that take the lives of far too many children, cannot be over-emphasized.”

Recommendation for sustainable solutions to WASH challenges in Nigeria

Achieving universal access to safe drinking water, adequate sanitation, and improved hygiene, and progressively improving the level and quality of services are essential steps on every country’s journey to securing good health for its citizens.(Cairncross S, Bartram J, Cumming O, Brocklehurst C (2010) ) here are a few recommendations for sustainable solutions to WASH challenges in Nigeria .

  • WASH should be emphasized within national development plans, such as Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers, as a health priority.

  • Government should ensure that Finance and Planning Ministries are aware of the evidence and impacts of low levels of WASH coverage.

  • Government should set up committees and policies to ensure that every child has access to WASH in school and that no new schools are constructed without WASH facilities.

  • Nongovernmental organizations should support a call for universal access to WASH services for all.

  • Nongovernmental organizations should call on the government to take action urgently to address this health issue.

  • Government should include WASH as a key performance indicator of management in the health sector.

  • Government should develop criteria for more equitable allocation of resources to ensure better focus on serving the unserved.

  • Government should partner and work with all local partners (civil society and private service providers) to coordinate plans for universal WASH coverage for better health.

  • Government should ensure that local health and development strategies and plans include WASH.


In order for Nigeria to create sustainable solutions to WASH challenges, the recommendations made should be considered as it will aid the Government in tackling WASH challenges to yield more sustainable results and solutions to WASH challenges in Nigeria.

Guest Author: Oluchi Harry


  • Water, Sanitation, Hygiene National Outcome Routine Mapping Report National bureau of statistics Nigeria

  • Zaid Jurji and Bioye Ogunjobi. Leveraging the power of the private sector to tackle poverty and WASH challenges in Nigeria,

  • UNICEF article Eliana Drakopoulos, Chief of Communications, Advocacy and Partnerships,

  • UNICEF Nigeria(2020) survey reveals progress and gaps in Nigerians’ access to water, sanitation and hygiene services. UNICEF Nigeria

  • Cairncross S, Bartram J, Cumming O, Brocklehurst C (2010) Hygiene, Sanitation, and Water: What Needs to Be Done? PLoS Med 7(11): e1000365

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