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U.N. warns of water crisis in Nigeria's megacity
December 22, 2016 / 3:45 PM / in 10 months

U.N. warns of water crisis in Nigeria's megacity

GENEVA, Dec 22 (Reuters) - Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos faces an acute water crisis that is creating unacceptable conditions for millions of people, according to an independent expert appointed by the United Nations.

The 21 million residents of Lagos, which is built on a lagoon, struggle to find water suitable for drinking and sanitation. Estimates suggest only one in 10 people have access to water supplied by the state utility provider, according to the U.N.

This has been compounded by years of mismanagement, said Léo Heller, the U.N. special rapporteur on the human rights to water and sanitation, after Lagos’s state governor presented a proposed budget for 2017 to the Lagos House Assembly.

“Government reports indicate alarmingly high deficits in the sector, representing clearly unacceptable conditions for millions of the megacity’s residents,” a U.N. statement quoted Heller as saying.

More funding could be used to improve the state utility provider, adopt financing schemes and reduce water losses, he said.

Lagos is the biggest city in Africa’s most populous nation. A state government spokesman declined to comment.

Despite having Africa’s largest economy, Nigeria has one of the highest child death rates from water-borne diseases in Africa. It has sought international development help to finance new water treatment plants and expand its distribution networks.

As a result of the creaky public water system, many residents rely on private water suppliers, or bore into pipes themselves. Damaged pipes leak millions of gallons of treated water, about one-quarter of the supplies meant for homes, schools, hospitals and industry.

Water rights activists, labour unions and environmentalists blame the failure on the endemic corruption that permeates so much of Nigeria, which ranks in the bottom fifth on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index. (Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Additional reporting by Alexis Akwagyiram in Lagos; Writing by Paul Carsten; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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