206 million

Few places are as diverse as Nigeria. Home to almost 200 million people, it’s the most densely-populated country in Africa, alive with the customs and languages of more than 500 ethnic groups.

Nigeria’s economy is the largest in Africa, thanks to its oil and natural gas reserves. But inequality is increasing, and nearly half the population lives below the poverty line.

Although the government has made solid progress in reaching more people with clean water, over 46 million Nigerians are still going without. Open defecation is normal in many places, spreading disease. Many schools have no toilets; health clinics struggle without running water. And as thousands of people move to urban areas, makeshift homes are built without access to essential water, sanitation and hygiene services.

people don't have clean water.

That's over 1 in every 5 people.

people don't have a decent toilet.

That's over half the population living without this essential.

Almost children under 5 die a year.

Due to poor water and sanitation.

Our work in Nigeria

We’re working closely with the Nigerian government as part of its commitment to reach everyone clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene by 2030. Powerful voices are helping us – from women and young people, to traditional and religious institutions. Together, we will bring about lasting change in millions of people's lives.

Changing normal for women

Clean water, decent toilets and hygiene knowledge transform the lives of women like Hembafan.

Image: WaterAid/ Andrew Esiebo

Life for women in the village of Orwua Nyam used to be incredibly tough. To collect water, they had to walk to a dirty river, crossing a dangerous road on their way. With only three toilets in the whole village, women were forced to go in the open – risking both their dignity and their safety. Diseases spread, leaving families with medical bills they could ill afford. Businesses suffered too, as visitors didn’t want to stop here.

Together with local residents, and as part of the HSBC Water Programme, we changed this.

We built a new handpump, so women and girls can collect clean water without having to leave the village. We shared our knowledge with local families, supporting every home to build a toilet – plus an additional one for visitors.

Now, families are healthy, the village is clean, and businesses are thriving.

People no longer fall sick and there is no need to cross the road in search of water. This means more time for work on the farm and at home, and the environment is neat... Everyone is knowledgeable about sanitation, even the small children.
Hembafan, farmer, Orwua Nyam

Changing behaviours through innovation

What is it that motivates people to improve their toilets and hygiene behaviours? Our research found that pride – rather than disgust – is key, so the Sustainable Sanitation Project draws on social and commercial marketing practices to encourage change.

Image: WaterAid/ Tom Saater

Tackling the toilet crisis

Over half the population – 116 million people – live without somewhere private and safe to go to the toilet.

Pupils in schools without toilets have no choice but to go in the bush – just metres away from where they play at break time. There's nowhere to wash their hands, nor for girls to manage their periods hygienically.

Thanks to our sanitation project, more than 300,000 people across Ekiti, Enugu and Jigawa, three of Nigeria’s poorest states, now have decent toilets. 119 communities have been declared free from open defecation. School pupils no longer fear going to the toilet. Instead, in homes and schools, having a decent toilet is now normal.

I feel good about using this toilet, I feel safe and comfortable... Using the toilet affects my education in a good way.
Lilian, school pupil in Enugu State

Improving small town sanitation

As ongoing conflict in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe (the BAY states) forces more and more people to leave their homes and head to the region's small towns, water and sanitation systems are struggling to cope under the strain.

We’re working in partnership with Mercy Corps, with funding from USAID, to improve access to clean water and decent sanitation services in the area. And by sharing our expertise, we're making sure local authorities can sustain them, long after we've left.

Responding to COVID-19

With so many people in close contact, Nigeria is particularly vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic. Handwashing is a key defence against its spread, but over 46 million people here still live without a source of clean water.

We’re pressing the government to expand sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene services in at-risk communities. We're building contactless handwashing facilities in health centres and busy public areas, and our hygiene awareness and education campaign has reached over 6 million people.

Laraba Tanko is a trader in Sabon Tasha Market, Chikun Local Government, Kaduna State, Nigeria. Before the implementation of the Scale-Up hygiene project in Kaduna State, the practice of hand hygiene was difficult for her because there was only a hand ...
Handwashing hubs at busy marketplaces help to curb the spread of infectious diseases like COVID-19.
Image: WaterAid/ Ovie Emucha

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Delve deeper into our work

Explore the latest publications, research and policy papers from our work in Nigeria.

WaterAid Nigeria

Discover more on the WaterAid Nigeria website.