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Climate Change: WaterAid Urges Government to Urgently Respond to Threat

By Uangbaoje Alex Kaduna

WaterAid Nigeria has called on government at all levels to immediately respond to the urgent threat of climate change and recognise the vital role climate-resilient water and sanitation services and systems play in helping vulnerable communities.

It said water and sanitation has helped vulnerable communities to be more prepared for climate change; because despite contributing the least to it, it’s the world’s poorest people currently suffering the brunt of its destructive impact.

This was contained in a statement to commemorate Africa Climate Week 2021 which was made available to journalists by Oluseyi Abdulmalik, Communications and Media Manager, WaterAid Nigeria.

The international NGO lamented that far too little is spent on helping the most vulnerable people adapt to the impacts of climate change which is putting the health and lives of millions at risk, adding that it causes the occurrence of infectious diseases.

WaterAid stated that in Nigeria, 60 million people lack clean water close to home, depending almost entirely on groundwater for domestic water supply, especially in rural areas, stressing that groundwater provides much-needed protection against the impacts of climate change, acting as a buffer to changing water availability and quality in many parts of the world.

The statement reads; “Climate change is also aggravating the sanitation crisis. Extreme weather – floods, rising temperatures, prolonged droughts – are causing irreparable damage to weak sanitation systems and causing illnesses to spread further in vulnerable communities. An estimated 250,000 additional deaths per year are predicted between 2030 and 2050 due to climate change and many of these deaths will be linked to poor sanitation”.

“Poor sanitation and the transmission of fatal, but preventable illnesses – such as cholera – are also compounded by the effects of climate change. Only 88 million people living in Nigeria (that is 44% of the population) can rely on safely managed sanitation – that is a toilet serviced to allowed human waste to be treated and disposed of safely. About 32 million people (16% of the population) have limited sanitation – that is the use of improved latrines where there is hygienic separation of human faeces from human contact but that is shared by two or more households”.

It further noted that a staggering 112 million people still do not have access to a private toilet of their own, and about 46 million are left with the choice of practising open defecation.

They expressed that where decent toilets are lacking, human faeces can contaminate the groundwater or end up in rivers and lakes, polluting what is often the only supply of water for drinking, cooking, and cleaning.

“Children play on ground rife with pathogens and as a result of faecal contamination, whole communities can contract diarrhoeal diseases.

“Nigeria ranks 55th most vulnerable country to climate change – among the top 35% in the world – but only receives USD $1 per person, per year in climate finance. This is for both mitigation – cutting carbon emissions – and adaptation – reducing the impacts of climate change. While developing countries contribute very little to global carbon emissions, they are the least prepared to withstand the effects, with little money allocated towards helping them.

“The average person in Nigeria accounts annually for emissions of 0.546 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide – compared to the average per capita emission in the United States of 16.5 metric tonnes”, WaterAid stated.

According to the statement, Evelyn Mere, Country Director of WaterAid Nigeria said; “Climate change has intensified both the sanitation and water crisis. The climate clock is ticking and if efforts are not made to better understand, value and protect this vital resource, making it a central feature of climate change adaptation strategies, then we face a very bleak future”.

She further added that “Africa Climate Week is expected to build momentum towards ambitious political action. The leadup to COP26 is also an opportunity for African countries, including Nigeria, as they prepare their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). These are national climate plans which need to include commitments for climate-resilient water, sanitation and hygiene services”.

“Africa Climate Week is a major opportunity to highlight to national governments, regional donors and institutions the value that climate-resilient WASH brings to climate change adaptation for national action, and to advocate for the funding needed to make climate adaptation sustainable and resilient.

They however, urged all governments to urgently address the effects of the climate crisis and ensure sustainable access to clean water is a fundamental part of their national strategies for both adapting to and mitigating the effects of climate change.

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