Water Access in NigerWest Africa’s landlocked country of Niger is home to 24.2 million Nigeriens — 12.8 million of which do not have access to clean water, according to WaterAid. Around 80% of Niger dwells within the confines of the Sahara Desert where temperatures average 40℃, continually proving that access to clean water is hard to come across and in rapid decline. 

Likewise, 20.6 million people lack proper and acceptable sanitary services, forcing 71% of Nigeriens to practice open defecation. This practice is yielding an increase in septic water across Niger’s urban and rural areas. Due to continuing unsanitary defecation and poor water conditions, bacterial infections such as cholera, trachoma and Guinea worm are spreading throughout Niger. Complications with diarrhea are escalating as the leading cause of death for children under the age of 5, averaging nearly 13,800 annually, according to Water Aid. Additionally, just 22.7% of schools throughout the country have access to drinking water and often lack access to reasonable sanitation facilities.

The Progressive Steps

In 2015, clean water access in Niger received a 7% increase in water sanitary services, as reported by UNICEF. As recently as March 2023, the U.N. and United Nations Economic Commission for Europe are taking steps to increase Niger’s access to clean water, hygiene and sanitation.

Niger is joining a U.N. transboundary water-sharing accord, gaining protected access to Lake Chad, which has seen a decline in volume by 90% in recent years. The country is currently sharing 90% of its water resources with surrounding neighbors Chad and Nigeria. Lake Chad is now under full legal protection after signing into the UNECE Water Convention after the U.N. Water Conference held in March 2023. 

Spiking population and declining food supplies are a growing concern as water access in Niger is actively sought out through the new U.N. transboundary water-sharing accord. “Water scarcity in particular threatens the livelihoods of millions of people who depend on rain-fed agriculture and livestock,” said UNECE. “In recent decades, competition for land, water and food has intensified in the region, leading to increased instability, particularly around Lake Chad and in the Niger River basin.”

Impact of the Water Convention

Niger’s recent acceptance of the Water Convention marks a significant step toward enhancing water resource monitoring across Niger, Chad and Nigeria. Concurrently, UNICEF is actively engaged in Niger, working to enhance clean water accessibility through Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) initiatives. These efforts are vital as WASH is currently aiding 2.2 billion people globally who lack access to safe drinking water.

In a coordinated approach, UNICEF collaborates closely with Niger’s government to implement solutions, including the installation of small water pipes in growing municipalities. This strategy works alongside behavior change campaigns aimed at eradicating open defecation.

Efforts to improve water access in Niger date back to 2003 when World Vision initiated drilling projects in Niger and Mali as part of the West Africa Water Initiative.

Positioned in rural areas and schools, World Vision’s water stations significantly benefit villages, providing clean water to an individual every 10 seconds.

A Global Look

According to World Vision, the lack of access to clean water globally has decreased by millions since 2000. In 2000, 1.1 billion people lacked clean water, which decreased to 771 million by 2020, benefiting 329 million worldwide.

UNICEF is actively committed to addressing global water scarcity. Its initiatives include locating new water sources through advanced sensors, raising public awareness about water usage and its value and providing technical guidance through WASH programs to enhance water access standards.

– Chandler Doerr
Photo: Flickr

Water poverty in Nigeria
Water poverty in Nigeria is still a pressing issue today. Only 30% of Northern Nigeria’s population can access safe drinking water and adequate sanitation facilities. The subsequent use of unclean water leads to the spread of waterborne diseases such as cholera, guinea worm and hepatitis. The lack of water has impaired the livelihoods of farmers and led to a lower enrollment rate at schools, especially for girls. However, the situation is not without aid.

The History of Water Poverty in Nigeria

Since 1995, Nigerians have benefited from WaterAid, a charity organization that has established a multitude of water and sanitation projects. The organization works through partnerships with local government authorities, civil society groups and state agencies to implement its programs. The projects have led to progress in development plans and data collection efforts that have increased clean water supply and access to safe toilets.

WaterAid has worked to improve water poverty in Nigeria by implementing its services in more than 100 of Nigeria’s most impoverished communities, which include:

  • Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, where only 7% of the population acquires safe tap water.
  • Bauchi State where less than 50% of people can access safe water and sanitation.
  • Benue State where most streams face contamination.
  • Ekiti State where the main source of domestic water is pre-packaged water sachets and water vendors during the dry season.
  • Jigawa State where waterborne diseases are common.
  • Plateau State where most households rely on an unsafe water supply from government sources.

WaterAid, along with government support, has provided more than 3 million Nigerians with clean water, hygiene and sanitation.

The Data4WASH Programme

The Abuja-based nonprofit Media for Community Change and U.S.-based NGO BLI Global have a similar goal of eliminating water poverty in Nigeria. On August 27, 2020, the two organizations formed a partnership to launch the Data4WASH Programme. The program consists of an interactive online platform that accumulates data and maps GPS coordinates. It then creates a map that water-impoverished communities can utilize to advocate for themselves.

Through the map, empirical and widespread evidence can prove the need for adequate investment in the design and installation of clean water and sanitation facilities. Additionally, the program empowers civil society by involving them in the national initiative to improve water poverty in Nigeria. The map encourages people to identify and report water-deficient and poorly sanitized areas in their communities. For instance, final year students from the Department of Statistics at the University of Ibadan will participate in the data collection process.


The Data4WASH Programme has been especially valuable after COVID-19 disrupted Nigeria’s progress in alleviating water poverty. According to WaterAid, 60 million Nigerians lack access to a clean water supply and services and 150 million people lack basic hand-washing facilities with soap and water.

By enhancing data collecting processes, Nigeria can fortify its most vulnerable communities and health care systems to withstand the present detriments of COVID-19. Further, it can institutionally protect against potential health threats in the future. These measures established by the Data4WASH Programme’s interactive map system would also satisfy U.N. SDG 6 — “clean water and sanitation access for all, including safe and affordable drinking water.”

Locally crafted, community-driven initiatives like the Data4WASH Programme and intergovernmental organizations are vital to ending global poverty. One sets guidelines and the other provides outlets that encourage entrepreneurship. The two must work together to end water poverty in Nigeria and all around the world.

Joy Arkeh
Photo: Flickr