By Tosin Kolade
The Society for Water and Sanitation (NEWSAN) called on political parties and their candidates on Tuesday, to commit to promoting access to potable water and sanitation when elected into office.
The National Coordinator of NEWSAN, Mr Benson Attah, made the call at a news conference in Abuja, ahead of the general elections as part of the “Vote for WASH’’ Campaign of the group.
Attah said that as the country embarked on elections in a few days, it was important for stakeholders to prioritise access to water and sanitation in the political agenda of all parties.
He said that the “Vote for WASH” campaign was targeted at holding up water, sanitation and hygiene as priority programmes at every level in Nigeria.
According to him, Nigeria can no longer afford the deaths of over 70,000 children under five years annually, due to use of contaminated drinking water and poor sanitary conditions.
This, he said, had resulted in increased vulnerability to water-borne diseases, including diarrhoea.
The coordinator said that 23 per cent of Nigerians, made up of 48 million people still practiced open defecation, including schools without toilet facilities and menstrual hygiene friendly toilets for girls.
“There are hospitals without toilets for patients and care givers, resulting to the situation where Nigeria loses about 1.3 per cent (N455 billion) of its GDP annually, due to poor sanitation.
“Thirty three per cent of Nigerians lack basic water supply, 87 per cent don’t have safely managed water supply services and 83 per cent of Nigerians lack access to basic hygiene services.
“Therefore, we call on all political parties and their aspirants to hence forth, commit to recognise and prioritise safe water, sanitation and hygiene as fundamental human rights of all citizens and not privileges.”
Attah added that citizens must have rights to demand and hold political leaders accountable and ensure that priority was given to improve their lives.
He said that NEWSAN would continue to follow up with aspirants, who had pledged to prioritise access to WASH, saying that the last stakeholders’ engagement saw huge commitments and potential for change.
He called on governments at all levels to prioritise improvement of access to WASH services in its development strategy and the national transformation agenda.
According to him, addressing institutional and governance issues is key to achieving the agenda through policy and legislative reforms in combination with infrastructural investments.
“We call on government at levels to increase media engagement and enlightenment on WASH issues, support the development of framework for reporting progress on WASH targets and tracking of results for accountability.
“Government at all levels should strengthen all relevant institutions to be more effective and efficient in the delivery on their mandates, including safe and sustainable WASH services.”
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)) reports that the Federal Government had recognised the challenges facing the water supply, sanitation and hygiene sectors.
The challenges include low access to services, failure of poorly maintained infrastructure, weak capacity and poor performance of service providers, which has far-reaching impacts on Nigeria.
Stakeholders say that addressing institutional and governance issues are key to achieving the agenda, requiring policy and legislative reforms in combination with infrastructural investments. (NAN) (www.nannews.ng)
Edited by Abiemwense Moru/Silas Nwoha