FILE PHOTO: People gather at a tap in the Malkohi camp for internally displaced people as they collect water in Yola, Nigeria REUTERS
Nearly one-third of Nigerian children lack access to enough water, the UN children's agency UNICEF said Monday, calling for urgent measures to address the problem.
In a statement marking World Water Day, UNICEF said more than 1.42 billion people -- including 450 million children -- are living in areas of high or extremely high water vulnerability in the world.
"This means that 1 in 5 children worldwide do not have enough water to meet their everyday needs," it said.
"The figures in Nigeria are particularly worrying, with 26.5 million Nigerian children experiencing high or extremely high water vulnerability -- or 29 percent of Nigerian children," the UN body said.
About 100,000 Nigerian children are said to die annually of water-related diseases.
"The world's water crisis is not coming -- it is here, and children are its biggest victims," said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF's representative in Nigeria.
"When wells dry up, children are the ones missing school to fetch water. When droughts diminish food supplies, children suffer from malnutrition and stunting.
"When floods hit, children fall ill from waterborne illnesses. And when water is not available in Nigerian communities, children cannot wash their hands to fight off diseases," he added.
According to UNICEF, over 86 percent of Nigerians lack access to a safely managed drinking water source.
"The problem is compounded by poor drinking water quality and lack of equity in access," it said.
UNICEF said despite "some progress" by Nigeria, "there is still much more work to be done in the country to ensure that all Nigerians have access to adequate and quality water and hygiene services."
Although about 70 percent of Nigerians are reported to have access to basic water services, more than half of these water sources are contaminated, it said.
"At the current rate, the country will miss the SDG targets on people's access to water, unless there is a strong commitment and appropriate action taken by all stakeholders."