Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Too much water - not enough water

Nigeria is one of Africa's leading economies, with its GDP second only to South Africa. The country has abundant natural resources such as gold, oil and natural gas and diamonds. Its economic growth, however, hasn't had the trickle-down effect. Basic living standards such as safe drinking water and sanitation are abysmal.

According to the NGO WaterAid, 63 million people lack access to safe drinking water and 111 million have no sanitation. 85,000 children die every year in the country from diarrhoea caused by unsafe drinking water and poor sanitation.

 Lagos' population has doubled to more than 21 million residents. According to estimates, this number is likely to rise to 35 million by 2025, making it the world's most populous city.

Makoko, a one-square-kilometre settlement of Lagos is sometimes called the "Venice of Africa". This 200-year-old slum is hovels built upon wooden stilts. There are no official census records, but estimates suggest the population totals 150,000. Residents here lack access to safe drinking water. When it rains, conditions turn particularly nasty, rain pushes sewage and waste through the slum, leaving behind a foul stench. Makoko lacks drainage and sanitation. Sewage from the slums flows straight into the surroundings, increasing the risk of infectious disease among inhabitants. Earlier this month there was an outbreak of cholera.Many of Makoko's inhabitants are from neighbouring Benin and Togo - most have lived here for decades. An average of eight people live in each house, and sustain themselves on fishing or collecting wood from the lagoon.

Theophilus Damijida is a general physician at the local health centre. "The health implications are vast. We encounter a lot of health problems as a result of no access to clean water," he said Patients coming here are diagnosed with diseases such as typhoid, malaria, diarrhoea and cholera. "It is all over as a result of no access to clean water. They believe this water is clean, they will even wash fresh wounds in it. The government has a big role to play so that there is more awareness to improve the situation and the people know the water they are using is not okay."

In July 2012, city authorities left thousands of people homeless after an eviction in one neighbourhood of Makoko. Since the area was considered an illegal settlement, they were given a 72-hour notice before their houses were destroyed. The government offered no rehabilitation or compensation. In an ever-growing city, where many wealthy desire waterfront property, there are suspicions the city wants the entire community gone.

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