Lagos state is surrounded by water yet only 10% of its inhabitants have access to safe public water supply (WASH Policy, Urban Water Master Plan). 70% living in peri-urban and rural areas are excluded from public water services. Access to safe drinking water is a basic human right to every citizen, and government should ensure free and available water for all. Poor access and availability of water contributes to high prevalence of preventable diseases such as diarrhea, cholera, malaria and typhoid. Significantly, Lagos has the 2nd highest prevalence of diarrhea rate in the South West, Nigeria with 7.5% after Oyo State with 9.2%. These diseases accounts for the rise in child morbidity and absenteeism from school, and puts a lot of pressure on the healthcare system

Grassroot People and Gender Development Center (GRADE) commemorate with grassroots women to mark the World Water Day today. GRADE is a registered non-governmental organization located in Lagos State to raise awareness on emerging issues and improve the quality of life of men, women, youth and children through community driven approaches and harness their capacities for sustainable development.

The Executive Director, Mrs. Vivian Ifeoma Emesowum is calling on government to speed up its effort to make water free, easily accessible and available for grassroots women to help them stay clean and healthy. She said that women bear the most burden of water crisis and carry big sized basin or jerry cans of 25litres to ensure that water is available at home. In some situation, women and children have to walk long distances from their homes to fetch water. It is so sad to see even pregnant women and nursing mothers with their babies strapped to their backs carrying 25liter jerry cans on their heads. This is never a healthy practice for any woman and may lead to constant body aches and pain. Women use water most to achieve clean environment and healthy living; they have to wash their children’s clothes, bathing, prepare food for the family, clean up used dishes and store water for other purposes.

Mrs. Emesowum who is also a member of the African Women WASH Network (AWWASHNet) and Secretary of the Advocacy and Campaign Coalition initiated by Save the Children also asked the government to ensure effective supervision of the popular “pure water” sachet. There is need to ensure the quality of pure water produced and supplied as many families depends on it for their daily consumption. She added that the last community scorecard conducted in Bariga LCDA revealed that water is a major challenge. Also field assessment carried out by AWWASHNet in areas like Orile, Apapa, Ajegunle and Okoko calls for urgent attention for Lagos State government to increase allocation to management of water facilities.

GRADE also applauds Léo Heller, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the human rights to water and sanitation for condemning the water bill passed by the Lagos State House of Assembly in February, 2017. According to Heller, “When the State fails to provide adequate access to drinking water, no one should be criminalized or fined for fetching water from lakes, rivers, or any other natural sources. The government is taking a step too far by imposing fines of the equivalent of $310 on ordinary individuals fetching water for survival, when the minimum wage stands at approximately $60.”

GRADE on this day 22nd of March, joins other activists in the State to demand for free, accessible and available water for grassroots women and children to ensure healthy living and clean environment.

Signed: Vivian Emesowum, Executive Director, GRADE