VOLA: MDG Drinking Water Target in Africa By Lanre Olagunju


When the issues that make mockery of Africa are listed, it’s possible to overlook the issue of portable water accessibility, despite that it’s one of those major factors that qualify Africans as a people enveloped by lack and poverty. When we say many Africans live on less than $2 per day, it sounds as if food is the only problem. We neglect water.


Though the MDG1 is essentially about eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, but the truth be told, hunger and poverty can’t be eradicated outside paying huge attention to the fact that every year, unsafe water in conjunction with lack of basic sanitation kills at least 1.6 million children under the age of five. I may have to help you understand that figure better. See, 1.6 million people is 8 times the figure of the entire people who lost their lives in the catastrophic Asian tsunami of 2004. It implies that lack of safe water is annually responsible for 8 tsunamis of 2004’s gravity.


If you live in a posh part of an urban area in Africa, you might be wondering why I have “wasted” an entire column on an issue as mundane as water. Well, maybe it’s because I am a trained hydrologist and these figures don’t leave me the same way they met me. But let me clear the air that the fact that there are several taps in your apartment doesn’t in anyway negate these alarming figures. If you move a little away from your comfort zone, these realities will find a full expression on you, as they are not respecter of persons.


We have far less than 1000 days to go with the MDGs, but many facts and figures support my premonitions that many African nations won’t get any close to many of these goals. Report says that the world has a whole is on track to meeting the MDG drinking water target and I want to imagine that the prevalence of unsafe water in many African nations is pulling the world back from dusting off this particular goal. I take the case of Nigeria for instance, by evaluation, for Nigeria to meet the MDG for water supply come 2015, the nation needs to invests at least N215  billion annually, but report shows that only a meagre N82.5 billion goes into that sector.


The adverse effect of living in a modern world void of safe water lives with us all, either directly or otherwise. Looking at the 8 MDGs, I’m critical about the fact that an issue as mundane as providing safe water will in many ways aid the achievement of other goals. I’ll explain. Government spend so much on sanitizing the environment and also in fighting diseases like malaria, diarrhoea, cholera and the rest of the other ailments that can be eradicated by providing safe water. When people lack access to safe water, their health suffers for it, the environment suffers for it, productive hours that should be spent in class or other rewarding activities suffer for it essentially when people travel miles in search of water. In fact, United Nations World Water has it that Africa has lost an estimated $28.4 billion due to lack of access to safe water and basic sanitation, Nigeria losses 5% of her GDP to the lack of safe water and its effect on sanitation. We must note that when children especially can’t access safe water, coupled with the productive hours they get to spend searching for water, in one way or the other, it result into bad health and this explain why African nations (especially countries in sub-Saharan Africa) have the highest number of out of school children.


Like a senior colleague explained to me at conference lately, it’s understandably that issues like war, rural-urban migration, population growth are mitigating against the effort made so far. Yet, needless to say, the commitment that has gone into improving access to portable water isn’t anything to think or talk about. More commitment is needed to at least save more lives, especially that of children who are always at the receiving end. The maintenance culture in many African nations must take a front role so that the little achievements attained can be sustained to function maximally.


African leaders need to take a cue from Kenya who just discovered a huge aquifer that can comfortably quench the thirst of Kenyans for the next 70 years. That speaks about dedication and commitment.


Lanre Olagunju is an hydrologist turned freelance journalist.  An alumnus of the American College of Journalism, Lanre advocates on several international platforms for the prosperity and absolute well-being of the African continent. He is @Lanre_Olagunju on Twitter.

Lanre gives reasons why Africa should not neglect MDG drinking water target