218.5 million

Few places are as diverse as Nigeria. Home to almost 220 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, one in five Nigerians are still going without. 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 any access to essential water, sanitation and hygiene services.

people don't have clean water close to home.

That's 1 in every 5 people.

people don't have a decent toilet of their own.

That's just over half the population.

More than 65 children under 5 die every year from diarrhoea

caused by dirty water, poor toilets, and a lack of hygiene facilities.

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.

Ukwan, 14, student and Vice President of the Environmental Health Club outside the boys toilets at his school in Enugu State, Nigeria.
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.

Lilian, 13, student outside the girls toilets at Trans Ekulu River Primary School, Trans Ekulu River Community, Enugu State, Nigeria, October 2018.
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.

Ready to make a difference? Just £2 a month can help change someone's life.

Get involved, your way

Join an event, fundraise with friends or find your own way to transform lives.

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.