Survival in a Packet: The Nigerian Clean Water Initiative By Fahad Garba Aliyu
Recently, our dear nation has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. Image-destroying events such as the kerosene subsidy scam, immigration recruitment stampede, CBN governor’s suspension and the reckless massacre of innocent lives and destruction of properties across the nation by militants have dominated the headlines. Through this chaos, it became apparent that as a nation, we tend to overlook issues when they don’t affect our persons or family. This selfish and morally unjustifiable tendency needs to be stopped. We need to change that attitude and mentality as any issue in any part of the country is a Nigerian issue and we all need to work together, putting any personal interest aside to push this nation forward.
A problem that is definitely a Nigerian problem is the lack of access to clean water and proper sanitation by majority of our populace. The issue doesn’t get the required attention and coverage that it requires. After protecting the lives and property of a country I believe access to clean drinking water is the next necessity every citizen of a country should be entitled to. I did a little research on the percentage of our citizens that don’t have access to clean water and was shocked at how high the number is. It is our collective responsibility to do the little we can to address this serious problem.
Upon learning about a community in my local government area that had no access to clean water, I decided to visit and assist them in any way that I could. After assessing their dire situation, I bought Procter and Gamble’s “Water Purification Packets That Works Like Magic”. It makes dirty water clean and safe enough to drink. It was truly a remarkable experience for me as it opened my eyes to a serious issue that I knew existed in Nigeria but never thought it was as bad until I saw it with my own eyes. What I saw was unbelievable. The water that was available to the community was so dirty that I couldn’t imagine anyone using it for anything let alone to drink. Yet, the community is left with no choice because that’s the only water they have access to. You don’t have to be extremely rich to make a difference. One P&G water purification packet cost just 10 cents (N16) that can create 10 liters of clean water. $1 (N160) gives a child clean water for 50 days and $7.5 (N1212) gives a child clean water for a year.
As this is a community that I pass every time I go to my hometown, I am now certain that one doesn’t have to look far to see similar communities in need of assistance near him/her. I never knew the situation was that critical; the community has been living, drinking and using that dirty water for generations. This is just one community of thousands across our nation that don’t have access to clean drinking water and proper sanitation. We boast of having the largest economy in Africa but of what good is it if it doesn’t translate to good standard of living to our citizens?The children I saw were wonderful and full of life but we have failed them, the community and society has failed them and their government has failed them too. By not providing one of their most basic needs, they are allowed to drink water that’s full of diseases daily.
The stats of people that don’t have access to clean drinking water and people that are at risk to water related diseases is just appalling to say the least. 70 million people don’t have access to clean drinking water, which amounts to 43.75% of our entire population. Over 112 million people don’t have access to adequate sanitation, almost two thirds of our populace. Over 97,000 children die every year from diarrhea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation in Nigeria.
We have the resources and means to tackle this epidemic but we lack the zeal and desire to do that as a people, community and nation as a whole. More awareness needs to be raised on the topic and we should in any way we can try to play a part in raising the standards of living in our communities. There are foundations and individuals trying to tackle the problem but they don’t have the funds to solve the problem alone. We all need to play our part and safeguard the future of these innocent children.
According to UNDP Human Development Report, lack of water, sanitation and hygiene costs Sub-Saharan African countries more in lost GDP than the entire continent gets in development aid. Half the hospital beds in developing countries are filled with people suffering from diseases caused by poor water, sanitation and hygiene. Just imagine if we work towards solving this menace and provide clean water to our citizens, the number of health cases from water borne diseases will drastically reduce but the reality is we don’t even talk about it, let alone proffer solutions to tackle the problem. The Millennium Development Goal to halve the proportion of people living without sanitation by 2015 is running 150 years behind schedule in sub-Saharan Africa.
Sanitation is not prioritized by the Nigerian government despite the huge health problems caused for the growing population. According to UN projections, Nigeria is expected to surpass the United States in population by 2050. The report also predicts we could be the third most populous nation in the world by the end of the century with over 900 million people. If with a population of less than 200 million people, we have these challenges, how on earth are we going to cope with over 900 million by the end of the century?
We must have a feasible plan, will, commitment and determination to effectively effect change. Short-term solutions should be avoided and long-term investments pushed forward. We need to set standards for water and sanitation systems, promote good sanitation and hygiene to communities and schools to ensure lasting changes.
I conclude with these three wonderful sayings. “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do” – Edward Everett Hale
Mother Teresa Said, “Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest to you”.
“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
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Fahad Garba Aliyu