The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) yesterday said over 3.6 million Nigerians are in need of potable water, sanitation and hygiene services.
It said of the number, 1.1 million are internally displaced persons (IDPs), having fled their homes due to violence and conflict even as most of them are out-of-reach in remote areas still impacted by conflicts.
UNICEF Nigeria Representative, Mohamed Fall, who made this known in a report titled: Water Under Fire, to mark the 2019 World Water day in Abuja, noted that about 800,000 people are in hard-to-reach areas of which 79 per cent are children and women.
He pointed out that conflict has created huge challenges for people in the North East region of the country, where violence has affected their ability to access water and sanitation, leading to diseases such as cholera.
Fall said in North East Nigeria, 5,365 people were affected by cholera, as 61 died in 2017, while 12,643 persons were affected and 175 died of cholera in 2018.
He noted that UNICEF is working to scale-up life saving responses, especially in IDPs camps, to ensure quality and sustainability of WASH services and facilities, minimise risk of WASH-related diseases and provide preventive measures against cholera and other water-borne diseases.
“Without safe and effective water, sanitation and hygiene services, children are at risk of malnutrition and preventable diseases including diarrhea, typhoid, cholera and polio.
“Girls are particularly affected because they are vulnerable to sexual violence, as they collect water or venture out to use latrines. They deal with affronts to their dignity as they bathe and manage menstrual hygiene.
“And they miss classes during menstruation if their schools have no suitable water and sanitation facilities,” he stated.
Fall added that the threats are exacerbated during conflict when deliberate and indiscriminate attacks destroy infrastructure, injure personnel and cut off power that keeps water, sanitation and hygiene systems running.
“ Armed conflicts also limit access to essential repair equipment and consumables such as fuel or chlorine, which could be depleted, rationed, diverted or blocked from delivery.