By Felicia Imohimi
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says in spite of many countries achieving impressive strides in water and sanitation coverage, there are huge disparities in access.
Jurji Zaid UNICEF Chief of WASH said this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Friday in Abuja in commemoration of World Water Day.
NAN reports that World Water is a UN observance day commemorated every March 22 to highlight the importance of water.
The theme for 2019 is “Living no one behind”. Zaid expressed dissatisfaction that while some people now enjoy the benefits of access to basic Water, Sanitation and Hygiene services (WASH) several population were being marginalised and underserved or left behind.
According to him, the Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) global studies by the WHO and UNICEF continue to present data that reveals persistent inequality in access to WASH services.
He emphasised that “key among them are gaps across rural and urban areas and poorest households which many countries have struggled to close”.
Zaid specifically noted that in Nigeria 2018 data on WASH National Outcome Routine Mapping (NORM) indicated that people from poorest households were 11 times less likely to have access to basic water, sanitation and hygiene services than those from richest households.
“Also, people who live in rural areas are more disadvantaged than those living in urban areas. They are two times less likely to access basic WASH services than those in urban areas.
“This shows that the poorest and those living in rural areas are continued to be left behind.
“Access to basic water services in rural areas is 60 per cent compared to 87 per cent in urban areas.
“Many people living in rural areas and people from poor households use unimproved sources. WASH NORM studies revealed that one in three or 33.8 per cent of rural indigenes use unprotected dug wells, springs and surface water.
“This is up to four times the proportion of people that use the same unprotected sources in urban areas which is 7.5 per cent. This poses a serious threat to these people especially the rural poor,” he said.
Zaid also noted the disparities in access to water and sanitation services within urban and rural areas in relation to individual status base on gender and disability as well as huge gaps in literacy levels.
According to him, these cases are not in Nigeria.
The WASH chief however emphasised that these inequalities due to disparities in access must be tacked in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
On the theme “Living no one behind”, the WASH chief noted that it was a fundamental principle of 2030 Agenda for SDGs which Nigeria ascribed to.
According to him, the principle recognised that the dignity of human person is fundamental and all governments ensure that the SDGs and targets are met for all nations and every segment of the society.
“Everyone should endeavour to reach the furthest behind first. The concept is embodied in SDG six which entails that the government reach every Nigerian with universal, equitable, sustainable and affordable water and sanitation services.
“The SDG can only be achieved if ‘no one is Left Behind,” Zaid said.