Water Scarcity Killing More People Than Boko Haram

Posted by Temple Oraeki in Blog 23 Jul 2015
A Water vendor in Ijegun, Lagos State

A Water vendor in Ijegun, Lagos State

This is shocking but it has been reported that lack of running water killed more people in Nigeria last year than Boko Haram.

“Everybody is worried about Boko Haram but the average Nigerian continues to see water as a private good not a public good that has to be provided by the government,” said Idayat Hassan, director of the Centre for Democracy and Development, a research institute based in the capital, Abuja.

While the insurgency claimed more than 4,000 lives, the shortage of potable water and poor sanitation led to about 73,000 deaths, according to WaterAid, a London-based nonprofit organisation.

The water deficit isn’t limited to isolated areas in the country’s vast north. In Lagos, about 15 million of the coastal metropolis’ 21 million have limited access to piped water.

The growth-at-all-cost syndrome without due consideration of the environmental impacts that accompanies such growth, has left most countries in Africa still struggling to achieve the MDG goals.
Next year alone, Lagos, a commercial city in Nigeria, will add more than the population of Boston, worsening its infrastructure shortfall. The state commissioner for planning and urban development, Toyin Ayinde, said in an interview, “Water is strained, transportation is strained, housing is strained,”.

Folks still need about 25 gallons a day, the state-run Lagos Water Corporation reckoned.

Meeting the Demand in the Commercial City of Lagos

Thousands of northerners have fled northern Nigeria to escape both the rural poverty there and the Islamist insurgency in Nigeria. At least 4,740 were killed last year by the Boko Haram Insurgency, more than double the number in 2013, Bath, U.K.-based risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft estimates.

The water company’s capacity is 210 million gallons a day compared with the 540 million gallons needed by Lagosians. Its potable piped water reaches about 7 million people. That leaves two-thirds of the city struggling to find safe water.

“Mairuwa are one of the most common forms of informal water supply, “They’re filling the gap of what government’s utilities should be doing, according to Water Aid Nigeria”

Lagos water officials have developed a $3.5 billion plan to more than triple capacity to 745 million gallons a day by 2020 to meet a projected population of 29 million, according to Shayo Holloway, the company’s group managing director.

Sub-Sahara Africa

Sub-Sahara Africa remains the most water-stressed region globally, according to the United Nation International Decade for Action,, 2005 – 2015. The third-biggest killer of children under the age of 5 in Africa is diarrhea, a disease that can — in nine out of 10 cases — be prevented by access to safe water and sanitation, according to WaterAid. Nigeria accounts for 11 percent of all global under-5 deaths, according Unicef.

Nigeria is not the only sub-Saharan African country in this quagmire; About 325 million people in the continent did not have access to improved drinking water in 2012, according to a World Health Organization and Unicef Joint Report last year. Dakar, Accra, Abidjan and Nairobi were cited as other water-stressed cities.

Water Supply and Distribution Status in Lagos

Today’s water woes were deepened by a 2009 law that barred past distribution methods. Until then, residents who could afford a direct connection to the main line stored water in tanks and sold it to neighbors on a pay-as-you-use basis. When such reselling was made illegal, police seized vendors’ tanks and disconnected them from the mains.

“The mairuwa took advantage of our stopping to bring water from outside,” said Ogundele Agbede, 80, a retired civil servant who was forced to shut his sideline selling water after more than 30 years.

Pipe Vandalization

Vandalism of the water pipes remains frequent and even when the pipes are intact, the flow is as erratic as electricity supply in a country that suffers from daily blackouts.

At the Dustbin Estate slum, where the ground is soft from building over a refuse dump and swamp land in the city’s southern Ajegunle district, pipes paid for by development organizations are often broken. Sanitation in the community is poor. Residents dump bags of trash and faeces into an adjacent canal, looked on by grazing goats and emaciated cows.

“They sabotage this one a lot,” Tolulope Sangosanya, 32, the founder of LOTS Charity Foundation, said pointing to one of four pipelines and the faucets her group installed there. “Sometimes they go and break it in the middle of the night.”

In Otumara, many from Agbede’s association sunk boreholes to secure a new source to continue their trading business.

“Very unfortunately, 90 percent of the boreholes are not drinkable,” Israel Akintimehin, 55, a pastor dressed in a Cleveland Cavaliers basketball vest, said in an interview at his Cherubim and Seraphim Church of Zion. “It’s a very big irony, we’re surrounded by water, yet we do not have good water.”

Source: Bloomberg

Temple Oraeki

Temple Oraeki

Hope Spring volunteer at Hope Spring Water
Temple has lived, worked and studied in various parts of Nigeria. His first degree was in Chemistry, which he obtained from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in Northern Nigeria. He obtained a Master's degree (as a PTDF scholar) in water and environmental engineering from University of Surrey, United Kingdom. He worked at a bank for a number of years, where his main clients were petroleum companies. Pollution of ground water by various organisations and the rampant shortages of clean water in every part of Nigeria he lived in drew his attention to the need for a strong voice to advocate for clean water, which should be accessible for all in Nigeria.
Temple Oraeki
  • Fred Ogudo August 3, 2015 at 7:29 pm /

    Wow…nice one…someone is gradually turning into a reporter by the day…