Sanitation and waterborne diseases: More work, less talk

By Odimegwu Onwumere

Last year, the Federal Ministry of Water Resources generated anxiety when it warned Nigerians to prepare for a possible outbreak of waterborne diseases. It made the disclosure through the head of climate change unit in the ministry.

The announcement was made after the flood that submerged many parts of the country. Nigerians and indeed members of the international community were worried about the possible outbreak of waterborne epidemics given the poor sanitary situation in and around the camps. But individuals and organisations did not only ask questions; they also donated materially and financially in making sure that the menace is curbed.


In an account with the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, the Leadership newspapers of August 8, 2013, in its headline titled ‘EU Donates €14.25 Million for Water, Sanitation in Nigeria – UNICEF official’ substantiated that the European Union, EU, is one such organisations that continue to help in water, sanitation and hygiene in Nigeria through the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, UNICEF.

It’s not that Nigeria is not blessed with water resources, but governments at all levels have not taken up the gauntlet to explore the enormous water resources of Nigeria.

In an article published in the European Scientific Journal, August edition with the caption: ‘Health Implications of Water Scarcity in Nigeria,’ by Dr Joseph Muta’a Hellandendu, Department of Sociology, Ahmadu Bello University, said there was no gainsaying that Nigeria is blessed with abundant water resources; these have largely remained unharnessed.

“Nigeria is blessed with abundant water resources, but largely untapped. In spite of the abundant water resources, government at all levels (federal, state and local) have not been able to successfully harness these resources to ensure a sustainable and equitable access to safe, adequate, improved and affordable water supply and sanitation to its population…,” he said.

The journal goes further to say that many diseases prevalent in the country are generally associated with substandard drinking water supply, poor sanitation conditions and inadequate health education programmes.

There are waterborne diseases such as diarrhea, dysentery, gastro-enteritis, infectious hepatitis, hookworm, guinea worm, scabies, measles and other parasitic infections.

In its research, ‘A Study of the National Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Programme Aimed at Achieving Millennium Development Goals in Eradicating Water Borne Diseases in Nigeria,’ by Olusegun Adegoke Adewusi of Department of Economics, Federal University of Technology, Yola, most under-five mortality in Nigeria results from diseases that are associated with undeserving water supply, inadequate sanitary facilities and unhygienic behaviour.

“The prevalence of diarrhea is higher in the rural than urban areas and in the northern zones than in the south. An estimated 150,000 to 200,000 diarrhea-related deaths occur among children below five each year.

“Onchocerciasis, caused by the black fly is highly endemic in Nigeria, because it’s commonly found around quick moving streams of the savannah and forest zones, with 40 million people exposed to the disease. Of this number, 22 million are infected and about 120,000 are estimated to be blind from the disease,” writes Adewusi.

It is also estimated that water-borne diseases claim 868,000 children annually, according to a publication in The Tide newspapers of March 22, 2013.

In a related development, a re-publication in the Environment and Health of April 16, 2012, but was apparently a courtesy of Daily Trust Newspapers, was with the headline: ‘Water Scarcity: 64m Nigerians Have no Access to Portable Water.’

An organisation called The Water and Sanitation Media Network, an alliance of journalists reporting water and sanitation issues in Nigeria, decried the high rate of infant mortality resulting from water-related bugs in the country, during this year’s World Water Day.

A representative of WaterAid in Nigeria, Michael Ojo said that 103 million do not have access to sanitation. He disclosed this at a water works and art exhibition for select primary schools in Abuja as part of activities to mark this year’s World Water Day.

Ojo purportedly said that only 58 percent of Nigerians have right-of-entry to portable water and only 31 percent have access to sanitation. The Water and Sanitation Media Network was worried that from the figure in The Tide, there is every tendency that Nigeria may not achieve the MDG’s water target before 2046 and that of sanitation by 2076.

The group was also worried that Nigeria has not sincerely realised any of the 26 Water, Sanitation and Hygiene programme, WASH, assurances it willingly made in many high level meetings between 2000 and 2012.

These promises were said by the group to have been made at four high level meetings between 2000-2012: the World Water Summit in Johannesburg 2000, United Nations Assembly, New York in 2010, African Sanitation and Hygiene Conference, eThekwini in 2011, and the Sanitation and Water for All meeting in Washington, in 2012; but none of them have been fulfilled so far by the Nigerian government.

“This explains why 35 million Nigerians still defecate in the open; about 90 million are without access to safe drinking water, and 130, 000 under five Nigerian children, die annually from preventable water borne disease,” the group pointed out.

The group said it was evident that Nigeria’s half-hearted approach to the matter is the result of unfulfilled pledges that include harmonisation of water and sanitation policies, promoting the WASH programme in schools, increasing water and sanitation budgets by 15 per cent, ensuring at least 0.5 per cent of the gross domestic product, GDP, to promoting sanitation and hygiene, declaring access to water and sanitation a human right, encouraging state and local governments to  create budget lines for sanitation, scaling up community led total sanitation in the 36 states,  increasing national access to improved sanitation to 65 per cent by 2015 and increasing national  access to improved water by at least 5 per cent  by 2014.

“The problem is particularly acute in the rural northern Nigeria, where only about 30 per cent of the population has access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation. This situation leads to a high prevalence of waterborne diseases, threatens the livelihoods of smallholder farmers, and contributes to low levels of school enrollment, especially among girls…” said an account.

The story went further, “USAID is partnering with Women Farmers Advancement Network, WOFAN, a non-governmental organisation through the Access to Water Sanitation and Hygiene programme to increase access for poor Nigerians to safe water, sanitation and hygiene education in 46 communities in Bauchi, Kano and Sokoto States.”

USAID mobilises community unions, community water, environment and sanitation committees, parent teachers associations and local water and sanitation units and assists them to build, function and sustain borehole hand pumps, toilet blocks, urinal blocks, hand washing stations and rain water catchment systems.

In addition, USAID works with these communities to put into practice a hygiene programme, creating environmental health clubs, to teach healthy practices.

Therefore, experts suggest that for Nigeria to control her deplorable sanitation condition and water related diseases, the country must channel floodwaters and garbage properly to avoid contaminating drinking water sources. Nigerians should also nurture the culture of keeping their surroundings clean and drinking reasonably high quantity of water daily.

“Drinking eight glasses of standard water daily can decrease the risk of colon cancer by 45 per cent, bladder cancer by 50 per cent and it can potentially even reduce the risk of breast cancer… it flushes toxins out of vital organs, carries nutrients to your cells and provides a moist environment for ear, nose and throat tissues,” said Dr. Tunde Obajinmi of Queen of the Rosary Hospital, Lagos.

The authorities must be in coalition with key organisations that are in the forefront of championing the provision of portable water to rural communities like the Global Development Alliance and Coca Cola, the Water and Development Alliance, WADA and the USAID, State Universal Basic Education Boards, WaterAid, Rural Water and Sanitation Agencies and selected local governments; EU and UNICEF, among others.

The government should provide boreholes to communities, water supply and sanitation facilities in schools and clinics and in every public places and kick-off practical policies that will promote hygiene and sanitation practices among the populace.

Odimegwu Onwumere, a poet/writer, writes from Rivers State. 


Nigeria’s education sector and UNESCO’s report

By Odimegwu Onwumere

The Director of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO, in Nigeria, Professor Hassana Alidou at a recent launch of the Education For All, EFA, Global Monitoring Report, GMR, said that Nigeria has some of the worst education indicators in the world.

In ‘Teaching and learning: Achieving quality for all’, an account by the UNESCO launched 29 Jan 2014, Nigeria is among the 37 countries that are losing money being spent in education, because children are not learning. UNESCO disclosed that the menace is already costing governments $129 billion a year. The report stressed that despite the money being spent, the rejuvenation of the primary education is not in the near future because of poor quality education that is failing to ensure that children learn.

But speaking in Abuja as at June 2013, when he granted audience to the Director of the Bureau for the Development of Education in Africa, BREDA, an arm of UNESCO, Dr. Ann-Therese Ndog-Jatta, the supervising Minister for Education, Barr. Nyesom Wike declared that President Goodluck Jonathan was fully committed to the elimination of all forms of illiteracy from the country, stressing that there is no way significant development can take place in the face of illiteracy. Extolling President Jonathan’s giant stride in education, Wike blamed past governments for the challenges being faced in the country’s education sector.


“If previous administrations had worked towards eradicating illiteracy the way President Goodluck Jonathan has done in the past two years, we would substantially have tackled this challenge. However, I am happy we are making serious progress with our direct partnership with UNESCO and we shall continue to build on the successes already recorded,” said Wike.

Ten per cent of the global spending is on primary education, yet, hardly a child out of four children can read a single sentence or solve a simple mathematics. UNESCO feared that it would take poorest young women in developing countries of Asia until 2072, for all to be literate. On sub-Saharan Africa, UNESCO bemoaned that it would take about the next century for all girls to finish lower secondary school.

With the development, pundits on education in the country decried the supposition by the Federal Government in 2000, boasting of meeting the 2015 Millennium Development Goal in education, whereas the UNESCO said that it would take more than 70 years for all children to have access to at least, primary education. UNESCO tailored the number of children who did not even get basic schooling to 57 million, of which a huge portion was from Nigeria. The number of Nigerian children out of primary school was given as 10.5 million. The number of children in poorer countries who remain illiterate, notwithstanding having been in school, was given as 130 million.

These worrisome figures by UNESCO, however, did not go down well with the stakeholders in the sector. Mr. Lambert Oparah, the Special Assistant to the Supervising Minister of Education, Wike, disagreed with these figures saying, “I don’t know where UNESCO got the statistics from, but I am particular about Nigeria, especially what the Supervising Minister of Education is doing. Apart from the various restructuring programmes he is undertaking to ensure that our education system is uplifted, he has also ensured that those managing the education system, particularly teachers, are properly trained so that they can effectively impart their knowledge to the students.

“In the next couple of years, Nigeria will begin to see improved quality of education in Nigeria, given the efforts of the Federal Government towards this effect presently.”

Oparah concluded that of late, the federal government demanded that teachers be upgraded and, this is being done in collaboration with the Nigeria Teachers’ Institute, Kaduna.

Nevertheless, UNESCO was not alone in its position about the poor state of education in Nigeria. Contrary to Oparah’s position, Mr. Hassan Soweto who is the National Coordinator, Education Rights Campaign, ERC, was of the view that the education sector in the country is nothing to write home about.

He contended that there are 10.5 million out of school children in 2013 as compared to 2004, when there were 7.3 million. Soweto revealed that there is less corresponding increase in number of schools compared to the number of applicants to the universities in the country.

At the 11th Education for All Global Monitoring Report by UNESCO, the bleak future that Nigeria’s education sector faces means that it would not be able to meet EFA’s Goals 1, 2 and 4 by the year 2015. According to UNESCO’s report, Nigeria is one of the only 15 countries that the report projects will have fewer than 80 per cent of its primary school age children enrolled by 2015. Nigeria’s out-of-school population not only grew the most in terms of any country in the world since 2004-2005 by 3.4 million, but also had the 4th highest growth rate. It was revealed by analysts that while huge sums of money are yearly budgeted for the education sector in the country, the 2014 budgetary allocation to education in particular, cannot sufficiently address its numerous woes.

There are challenges and prospects of achieving the six goals of EFA, adopted in Dakar in 2000, according to Professor Alidou, but inequality and inequity are very pronounced in certain parts of the country, as she noted in an EFA global monitoring report.

As UNESCO seemingly promised to give-a-hand to the federal government in education, developmental agenda and security challenges, hope has been raised in the Nigeria’s education sector.

Speaking at the lunch of Opo Imo by the Osun state government last year, Senator Sola Adeyeye, the Deputy Chairman, Senate Committee on Education, challenged the leaders of Nigeria to integrate technology into Nigeria’s education system.

“Nigeria could raise nearly half a billion dollars per year for education if 20 per cent of its oil revenue was invested in the sector. The amount raised would be almost three times what the country currently receives in aid to education,” he said.

Also Bar Wike, promised that the government would continue to work to eradicate illiteracy. “We still appeal to UNESCO to continue to extend more technical support to us in the area of elimination of illiteracy in our nation. By next year, we shall increase the level of funding for literacy programmes and all mass literacy agencies will be galvanized to take the efforts of the administration to improve our literacy to the next level.”

Findings are that for the education sector in the country to move forward, corruption must be stemmed and the flagrant mismanagement of the country’s human and natural resources should be properly utilised.

Professor Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufa’I, former education minister is of the view that Nigeria has a need to amplify public awareness among learners, families and all other stakeholders on the potential for succession, employment and self-fulfillment that Technical Vocational Education and Training could offer.

Odimegwu Onwumere is a Poet/Writer based in Rivers State. Contact: +2348057778358. Email:

Stupidity of many normal people

By Odimegwu Onwumere

My problem with the today-dislocated world

is that my admirable grandparents

who brought me up  in the 70s to 80s

and the members of the enlarged Nze Onwumere family

taught me to be simpler with the things of life,

saying that good name is greater than ill-gotten wealth,

saying that I should uphold value and virtue

for the sake of the family’s name.

I was told that a man who is not contented

and aspires to achieve more in not-unique ways

is a fool to fortune.


I’m spending a lifetime holding onto these no-less precepts,

other than it seems that many people who have crossed my way

were not brought up in this direction, hence it is impossible for me

to accept and interpret the people and the world of today.


They tell me to let go those precepts of my grandparents

and the members of the enlarged Nze Onwumere family,

saying that they belong to the Homer.


They tell me that one thing that remains permanent is change.


I do not comprehend what they mean by ‘change’,

if they mean that I should eschew these values and virtues

for a place of wrong and prejudice.


Unlike the precepts of my grandparents

and the members of the enlarged Nze Onwumere family,

this world has erroneously plunged self

into depression, desire for evil at will, ego,

fake, falsehood, fame-and-fortune…


Many people do not care to know their future,

but their fortune.


They see this as the greatest life motivator,

and not values and virtues, which I was taught

are greater than this stupidity of many normal people

that has become the occupation of the world.


Odimegwu Onwumere, a Poet/Writer, writes from Rivers State.

Tel: +2348057778358