New survey reveals progress and gaps in Nigerians’ access to water, sanitation and hygiene services

Findings show one-third of Nigerians drinks contaminated water and 46 million still practice open defecation

Eliana Drakopoulos, Chief of Communications, Advocacy and Partnerships, UNICEF Nigeria
UNICEF Nigeria/2020/Owoicho
11 November 2020

A new report 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 litres per day. The minimum acceptable range is between 12 and 16 litres per day, according to national standards.

The report, released by Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Water Resources and UNICEF, said 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.

“The data shows us that there is still more work to be done to ensure that all Nigerians have access to adequate and quality water and hygiene services,” said the Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu.

“While we have made some progress – most notably in the number of households accessing basic water services - we cannot rest on our laurels. We will be looking at our overall strategy, based on these findings, to see how we can strengthen all areas of the water, sanitation and hygiene in Nigeria – including making faster progress in ending open defecation across the country.”

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.

The report findings come from a second round of the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene National Outcome Routine Mapping (WASH NORM II) exercise, carried out in collaboration with the National Bureau of Statistics and UNICEF. Conducted just before the outbreak of COVID-19, it is the largest survey of its kind and most comprehensive annual WASH data report to-date. It underlines efforts by the Ministry of Water Resources and its partners to strengthen the sector’s planning and monitoring towards achievement of results under SDG 6 on ensuring access to water and sanitation for all.

Map showing access to water in Nigeria
UNICEF Nigeria/2020
Map showing access to water in Nigeria

A major issue to be considered is that access to WASH services is not keeping pace with the increase in population across Nigeria.

The WASH NORM II survey covered nearly 25,000 households and assessed more than 4,500 water facilities, more than 2,000 schools and 1,300 health facilities, 1,250 markets and motor parks, and customers of 28 state urban water utilities across the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). This year, two very important modules were added: water quality assessments, and household WASH financial tracking.

The survey was made possible with financial support from UNICEF and the African Development Bank.

“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. “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 overemphasized.”

“The results from this survey underline the urgent need to increase investments in sustaining and expanding access to hygiene, water and sanitation if we are to contain the spread of the coronavirus and other deadly diseases. This should include partnership with the private sector, communities and with young people. The results also provide us with a critical roadmap on exactly where we need to put our resources for maximum impact,’’ said Peter Hawkins.