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24th Nigerian Economic Summit, ‘From Poverty to Prosperity’ - Toyin Saraki Declares National Emergency on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

“If we do not take urgent action in Nigeria’s healthcare space, we would be setting off a domino effect that we can ill afford as a nation”

At the 24th Nigerian Economic Summit in Abuja this week, Toyin Saraki spoke alongside Professor Isaac Adewole, Honourable Minister for Health, and representatives from the private sector, on a panel focused on ‘Incentivizing Investment in the Health Care Sector in Nigeria.’

Mrs Saraki welcomed the draft ‘National Policy on Incentivizing Healthcare Investments’ and the signals from the Federal Ministry of Health that it would prioritise domestic and global resource mobilisation towards addressing the challenges of a struggling healthcare system.


As Founder-President of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa, Mrs Saraki also shared the best practice models being implemented by the organisation, including novel solutions to health and development challenges across Nigeria, urging a dedicated increase in human capital development from birth to age. She also delivered the closing plenary address and participated in the ‘Poverty to Prosperity’ plenary panel alongside Rachid Benmessaoud, Country Director of World Bank, Gates Foundation Country Director Paulin Basinga, and Sterling Bank CEO Abubakar Suleiman.

Mrs Saraki, who launched a worldwide campaign for improved water, sanitation and hygiene earlier this year, with global partners and the support of the World Health Organization, declared at the summit that current conditions in Nigeria represented a ‘National Emergency,’ commenting:

“According to the World Bank, Nigeria’s spending on water, sanitation and hygiene – known as ‘WASH’ - must at least triple if we are to have any hope of achieving the clean water and sanitation goals. A lack of investment in WASH is putting the lives of thousands at risk as the spread of Ebola, for example, is made more likely.”

“WASH is at the heart of Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) and the fact that outbreaks of diseases have been so severe in Nigeria recently – with the WHO commenting that the Lassa Fever outbreak this year was unprecedented – is no coincidence.”

“Meanwhile, women and infants are dying needlessly in labour rooms, with maternal sepsis taking a mother's life at what should be the most joyous time.”

“It is not just the current situational analysis which is so bleak, but also the systematic failures to bring WASH standards up to an appropriate level for our population.”

“Last year the World Bank published its appropriately-named report ‘A Wake up Call – Nigeria Water Supply, Sanitation, and Hygiene Poverty Diagnostic.’  I met with the water team at the World Bank this summer to discuss and analyse its conclusions, which were devastating. Only 29% of Nigerians have access to improved sanitation, and poor children are about four times more likely to get diarrheal disease than rich children due to poor access to WASH. This dire situation is not being effectively addressed.”

“Nigeria is struggling to maintain its current infrastructure, inadequate as it is for the current population and entirely unfit for the years ahead. Government must lead the way, achieving economies of scale in densely populated areas by providing piped water and not forcing individual families or streets to rely on their own sources. As the World Bank rightly highlights, this also allows for the proper regulation of groundwater, essential in the fight against pollution.”

“There have been very recent encouraging signs from the Ministry of Water Resources in Nigeria, but I would like to take this opportunity to ask us all to acknowledge that water, sanitation and hygiene conditions in Nigeria represent a national emergency – and should be treated as such.”

In Nigeria, 15% of completed works on public water infrastructure are considered to be of unsatisfactory quality, and nearly 30% of water points and water schemes fail within their first year of operation. Access to piped water on premises in urban areas has decreased substantially, from a level which was already critical. Across most water-utility indicators, Nigeria underperforms in comparison to African and global averages and needs to invest at least three times more than it does today to achieve the WASH sustainable development goals.

The Wellbeing Foundation Africa last month announced a new partnership with Unilever Lifebuoy Nigeria and Sightsavers to improve hygiene practices to impact more than 2 million children, their families and communities over the following 12 months.

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