Every healthcare centre in Nigeria could have taps and toilets for just half-an-hour’s worth of COVID-19 spending

8 April 2021
WWD 2021
WaterAid/Chileshe Chanda

As G20 finance ministers meet this week in Rome to discuss how they will build back from the pandemic, WaterAid is urging global leaders to commit to new funding of at least $1.2 billion, to ensure all hospitals and clinics, particularly within the world’s poorest countries, have clean water, decent toilets and proper handwashing facilities.

Since the onset of Covid-19, rich countries have spent significant sums, an average of nearly 10% of their GDP,[1] and a total of $20.6 trillion, on stimulus packages to help bolster their economies and to recover from the pandemic.[2] The sum needed, $1.2 billion, equates to just thirty minutes-worth of the past year’s spending. This investment would bring these vital frontline defences against future pandemics to all healthcare facilities in the poorest nations.

in Nigeria, millions of people are at higher risk of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases as 96% of all healthcare centres in Nigeria lack access to basic water, sanitation and hygiene services – putting the lives of doctors, nurses, midwives and patients at risk. Providing doctors, nurses and patients with somewhere to clean their hands is one of the most effective ways to halt the spread of disease.

Whilst vaccines and therapeutics are urgently needed, lives are being put at risk every day because the very basics of disease prevention are being ignored. An essential injection of finance by the G20 would prevent millions of avoidable deaths through infections and diseases. Not only has research shown that washing hands with soap helps reduce the spread of coronaviruses by one third[3] but it would also help curb the growth of antimicrobial resistance as antibiotics are too often used in unclean health facilities as a 'quick fix' in place of proper hygiene – Which is contributing to an increasingly alarming situation as antibiotics lose their power to fight infections.

According to the World Health Organization, investment of this nature would take just one year to pay for itself and produce savings for every dollar invested thereafter.[4] But an ever-growing debt crisis is preventing poorer countries from being able to invest into basic water services, with some countries paying billions of dollars in international debt service each year.

Evelyn Mere, Country Director, WaterAid Nigeria, said:

“Spending at least £1.2 billion on water, sanitation and hygiene for healthcare centres is a no-brainer investment, both saving lives now and also protecting against future pandemics and the devastation they cause. This sum equates to just thirty minutes-worth of what has been spent over the last year on Covid response packages. Yet it could change everything for the millions who have no option but to seek care from the 50 per cent of health care facilities in the poorest countries which don’t have clean water. 

“We must find the money needed as a matter of urgency, to make sure all healthcare facilities in the poorest countries have clean water and soap before another pandemic hits. If frontline health workers can’t wash their hands, keep patients clean or have somewhere decent to go to the toilet, a hospital is not a hospital at all - it’s a breeding ground for disease.”

For more information, please contact:

WaterAid Nigeria: Oluseyi Abdulmalik, Communications and Media Manager on [email protected] or +234 8034312391

Notes to Editors:


WaterAid is working to make clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene normal for everyone, everywhere within a generation. The international not-for-profit organisation works in 28 countries to change the lives of the poorest and most marginalised people. Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 27 million people with clean water and 27 million people with decent toilets. For more information, visit www.wateraid.org, www.wateraid.org/nigeria; follow @WaterAidNigeria, @WaterAid or @WaterAidPress on Twitter, or visit us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/wateraid, www.facebook.com/wateraidnigeria

  • 785 million people in the world – one in ten – do not have clean water close to home.[5]
  • 2 billion people in the world – almost one in four – do not have a decent toilet of their own.[6]
  • Around 310,000 children under five die every year from diarrhoeal diseases caused by poor water and sanitation. That's around 800 children a day, or one child every two minutes.[7]
  • Every £1 invested in water and toilets returns an average of £4 in increased productivity.[8]
  • Just £15 can provide one person with clean water.[9]

In Nigeria[10]:

  • Only 9% of the population have access to basic water, sanitation and hygiene services.
  • 60 million people (30% of the population) lack access to clean water.
  • 112 million people (56% of the population) lack decent toilets.
  • 46 million people (23% of the population) practice open defecation.
  • 167 million people (84% of the population) lack basic handwashing facilities.
  • Only 3% of schools have access to basic water, sanitation and hygiene services.
  • Only 4% of healthcare facilities have access to basic water, sanitation and hygiene services.
  • Only 2% of parks and markets have access to basic water, sanitation and hygiene services.







[2] Devex counts $20.6 trillion in pandemic-related funding announced by December 2020, the vast majority is from Governments - $12.2 trillion - and Multilaterals second largest at $7.7 trillion.

[3] Beale S, Johnson A, Zambon M, null n, Hayward A, Fragaszy E. Hand Hygiene Practices and the Risk of Human Coronavirus Infections: https://wellcomeopenresearch.org/articles/5-98

[4] p3 https://washmatters.wateraid.org/sites/g/files/jkxoof256/files/everyone-everywhere-achieving-universal-health-coverage-through-water-sanitation-and-hygiene-uhc-day-action-plan_0.pdf Taken from WHO 2020 Combatting Antimicrobial Resistance through water, sanitation and hygiene and infection prevention and control in health care

[7] Prüss-Ustün et al. (2014) and The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (2018)

[8] World Health Organization (2012) Global costs and benefits of drinking-water supply and sanitation interventions to reach the MDG target and universal coverage

[9] www.wateraid.org

[10] 2019 WASH National Outcome Routine Mapping (WASH NORM)