Nigeria confirmed its first case of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on 28 February 2020. Since then, the country has continued to record a daily rise in the number of cases with over 50,000 cases to date. Like many low and middle-income countries, Africa's most populous nation is ill-prepared to manage the devastating impact of a widespread transmission of the disease.

With the absence of an approved vaccine or medication for COVID-19, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends handwashing with soap and clean water, together with physical distancing and other key hygiene behaviours, as crucial to stop the spread of the virus. Sadly, millions of people in Nigeria do not have anywhere to wash their hands and lack the knowledge of how and why to wash hands properly.

National statistics show that about 160 million people in Nigeria lack access to handwashing facilities with soap close to home, and 60 million lack access to basic water supply. This makes the practice of good hygiene impossible and further increases their risk of contracting COVID-19. Additionally, only 7% of health facilities and 14% of schools in the country have access to combined basic water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services.[1] Similarly, poor access levels to WASH services in rural communities are even far more worrisome as this segment of the population is made far more vulnerable. The lack of facilities and knowledge creates a higher risk of illness and disease transmission, including the spread of COVID-19, with adverse impact on health, education, gender equality, livelihoods and socio-economic development.

There is no doubt that good hygiene practices are crucial to the process; in the face of this pandemic, a water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) response is a health response. Healthy communities and strong health systems need strong WASH systems. As a global leader in hygiene promotion and behaviour change, WaterAid Nigeria is proactively scaling-up this component of its work through government led mechanisms to combat the spread of COVID-19, in close collaboration with the media and civil society partners.

The Scale-Up Hygiene project is designed to enable WaterAid strengthen its efforts in preventing the spread of the coronavirus disease in Nigeria. It will support national and state governments to promote hygiene practices and hygiene behaviour change on a massive scale, along with the provision of hygiene facilities and kits required to support the adoption of key recommended behaviours. The project, funded by the HEINEKEN Africa Foundation, will be implemented from July 2020 to January 2021 in Bauchi, Benue, Ekiti, Enugu, Kaduna and Oyo states and at the national level.

The funds are part of the HEINEKEN Africa Foundation’s generous N547 million (€1.2 million) donation to WaterAid to support the international charity’s water, sanitation and hygiene work in vulnerable communities in Sub-Saharan Africa.

  1. Large scale hygiene promotion focused on encouraging key behaviours based on WHO recommendations and WaterAid's expert knowledge on the key role of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in the pandemic.
  2. Influence key decision makers to accelerate change by embedding hygiene behaviour change programming in COVID-19 response plans, and advocate for sustainable access to WASH to prevent outbreaks of infectious diseases.
  3. Support the government scale up the provision of hygiene facilities in healthcare centres, isolation centres, schools and public places to promote and encourage good hygiene practices.

  • Citizens are better informed on the effects of COVID-19 and importance of handwashing as a primary behaviour in preventing the spread of COVID-19.
  • State governments prioritise improved WASH service provision both in the short term in response to COVID-19 emergency and in the long term for sustainable access.
  • Increased water and handwashing facilities (over 1,000 non-contact and inclusive handwashing facilities) in healthcare centres, isolation centres, schools, key strategic locations and other public places to facilitate the curbing the spread of COVID-19.
  • Hygiene product packs distributed to 12, 000 households and 6, 000 people with disabilities.

Handwashing is one of the most effective prevention measures against infectious diseases. It is imperative that people have access to handwashing facilities with soap and clean water. WaterAid is determined to make clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene normal for everyone, everywhere, within a generation.


[1] 2019 National Outcome Routine Mapping of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Service Levels (WASHNORM)

Want to know more?

Learn more about the 'Scale-Up Hygiene' project which will help vulnerable communities protect themselves against the spread of Covid-19.

Our COVID-19 response

See how we are supporting national and state governments promote good hygiene to curtail the spread of the novel coronavirus disease in Nigeria.