Nigeria provided clean water to fewer than 10 per cent of its city dwellers in 2015, down from 29 per cent 25 years earlier, the World Bank has said.
It said in a report released on Monday that Nigerians and some other countries had failed to maintain infrastructure or struggled to cope with growing populations during the review year, adding that in Haiti, only seven per cent of households had clean tap water, compared to 15 per cent previously.
“Water and sanitation services need to improve dramatically or the consequences on health and well-being will be dire,” a report by Reuters quoted the Nigeria’s Country Director, World Bank, Rachid Benmessaoud, as saying.
Countries would have to quadruple their spending to $150bn a year to deliver universal safe water and sanitation, helping to reduce childhood diseases and deaths while boosting economic growth, the World Bank said.
The World Bank also said in the report that investments should be better coordinated and targeted to enable services to reach the most vulnerable, and that governments would have to engage the private sector more closely to meet the high costs.
“Millions are currently trapped in poverty by poor water supply and sanitation,” the Senior Director of the World Bank’s Global Water Practice, Guangzhe Chen, said in a statement.
He said, “More resources, targeted to areas of high vulnerability and low access, are needed to close the gaps and improve poor water and sanitation services.”
According to the World Bank, the high cost of clean water risks jeopardising the ability of countries to meet the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal of providing access to safe and affordable sanitation for all by 2030.
It noted that more than three quarters of those without clean water supplies lived in rural areas, where only 20 per cent had access to “improved sanitation”.
In cities, poor people were said to be up to three times less likely to have clean water supply than people in better off areas.
The risk of diarrhoeal diseases and malnutrition caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation was creating a “silent emergency”, with stunted growth affecting more than 40 per cent of children under five in countries including Guatemala, Niger, Yemen and Bangladesh, the report said.
It also said under-nutrition could have long-term effects on children, including poor mental development and reduced ability to work, which would eventually affect economic development.
In some countries, tap water was even more unsafe than pond water, with about 80 per cent of Bangladesh’s water supplies contaminated by E.coli bacteria, said the report.
It urged governments to better inform the people and encourage more household water treatment.
Providing clean water in cities could generate economies of scale, the bank said, urging greater private-sector involvement in urban water provision where recovering costs could be easier.
Researchers, decision makers and aid specialists are meeting in Stockholm for the annual World Water Week where they will focus on how to reduce waste in water use, according to Reuters.
Water and sanitation improvements should be linked to health programmes to better tackle diseases and malnutrition, said the World Bank report.
“Renewed efforts are needed to address those populations at greatest risk of death and disease due to inadequate water supply, sanitation and hygiene, which threatens human capital and economic development,” it said.