WaterAid Nigeria calls for a doubling of investment in clean water and hygiene to help prevent the spread of Covid-19

15 October 2020
GHD 2020 WaterAid/James Kiyimba

15 October, Abuja, Nigeria – On Global Handwashing Day, WaterAid Nigeria is calling on the government to double its investment in clean water and hygiene to help prevent the spread of Covid-19 and save lives. 

The 2020 Global Handwashing Day theme, ‘Hand Hygiene for All’, is a call to action to make hand hygiene a reality for all. The current COVID-19 pandemic highlights the critical role hand hygiene plays in disease transmission and provides a stark reminder that one of the most effective ways to stop the spread of a virus is also one of the simplest: hand hygiene, especially through handwashing with soap. To beat the virus today and ensure better health outcomes beyond the pandemic, handwashing with soap must be a priority now and in the future. The theme reminds us of the need to take immediate action on hand hygiene across all public and private settings to respond and control the COVID-19 pandemic. Hand hygiene must become everybody’s business. It also reminds us of the need to build on the current momentum to make hand hygiene a mainstay in public health interventions beyond the pandemic and create a culture of hand hygiene.

In Nigeria, a staggering 84% of people – about 167 million – do not have basic handwashing facilities available on premises with water and soap. Frequent handwashing with soap is one of the most effective ways of preventing the spread of Covid-19. Without this frontline defence, the risk of the virus spreading in communities is greater.

To make matters worse, in Nigeria, 90% of schools do not have basic handwashing facilities with soap and water, leaving children vulnerable not only to Covid-19 but also to other infectious diseases.

Millions of children and young people across the country miss lessons to walk long distances to collect water or use bushes in the school grounds to go to the toilet. But due to a continued lack of clean water and soap, children are not only exposed to this disease, they risk spreading it among other members of their community, while those forced to stay home will miss out on vital education.

Globally, 3 billion people are living without somewhere to wash their hands with clean water and soap at home and one in four health centres lack these basic facilities on site. In Nigeria, only 7% of healthcare facilities have combined water, sanitation and hygiene access. Without clean water, good hygiene and sanitation, health centres, the very places which are supposed to make you better and keep you well, are at high risk of becoming breeding grounds for Covid-19. Healthcare workers are staring down this disease without the facilities needed to protect themselves and their patients. Despite this, less than 1% of the funding for responding to Covid-19 has been invested in scaling up access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene.

This Global Handwashing Day, WaterAid Nigeria is joining with thousands of others through its celebrity-backed Art of Change competition to call for governments to act by bringing clean water and hygiene to everyone. The competition was launched in July this year on the 10-year anniversary of water and sanitation being recognised by the United Nations General Assembly as vital human rights, which should be afforded to every person. It attracted 285 artists across 44 countries who produced inspiring artwork on the theme of water and hygiene to help use their art as a force for good and make the voices of millions heard on this important issue.

Today, WaterAid has announced that the powerful winning Art of Change piece, chosen by the public, ‘Clean water saves lives’ will now be presented to government leaders across the world, together with a letter of support, urging them to make sure everyone has water and hygiene to defend themselves and their communities against diseases – including Covid-19.

Access to water, sanitation and hygiene services are fundamental to improving lives, health, livelihoods, gender equality, education outcomes and for driving economic and sustainable development. Now, more than ever, the basic human rights to these essential services must be upheld, with particular attention given to the poorest, most vulnerable and marginalised segments of the population who are most vulnerable to infectious diseases such as COVID-19, in order to ensure that we truly leave no one behind.

Evelyn Mere, Country Director of WaterAid Nigeria said:

“It is unacceptable that in the midst of the global Covid-19 pandemic – where clean water and hygiene offer a vital first line of defence against the disease – over 160 million people in Nigeria are still living without basic handwashing facilities. How can they protect themselves adequately from this and other deadly diseases?

“As thousands of people across the world demonstrate their support, we are urgently calling on our government to listen and double investment in clean water and hygiene so that everyone, including the most vulnerable in our society, have the chance of a healthy and secure future.”


For more information, please contact: 

WaterAid Nigeria: Oluseyi Abdulmalik, Communications & 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.orgwww.wateraid.org/nigeria; follow @WaterAidNigeria, @WaterAid or @WaterAidPress on Twitter, or visit us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/wateraidwww.facebook.com/wateraidnigeria


  • 785 million people in the world – one in ten – do not have clean water close to home.
  • 2 billion people in the world – almost one in four – do not have a decent toilet of their own.
  • 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.
  • Every £1 invested in water and toilets returns an average of £4 in increased productivity.
  • Just £15 can provide one person with clean water.


*In Nigeria:

  • Only 9% of the population have access to combined 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 14% of schools have combined water, sanitation and hygiene services.
  • Only 7% of healthcare facilities have combined water, sanitation and hygiene services.
  • Only 14% of parks and markets have combined water, sanitation and hygiene services. 


*2019 WASH National Outcome Routine Mapping (WASH NORM)