As we convene this week for World Water Week 2023 in Stockholm and virtually, the theme “Seeds of Change” aptly encapsulates the innovative solutions sprouting on the horizon of water conservation and management.
In the face of mounting water scarcity and the challenges posed by climate change, the world has increasingly recognized the urgency of safeguarding our most precious resource – water. I recall the journey towards a water-wise world, in particular when I engaged in 2019 with the Stockholm International Water Institute, discussing the challenges that frontline health workers face without access to water, sanitation and hygiene, and pledged through the Wellbeing Foundation Africa, to their water commitments, which laid the groundwork for activating the intersects between climate and health for our foundational transformative water, sanitation and hygiene change programming.
In the years since World Water Week 2019, remarkable strides have been made, propelled by the Wellbeing Foundation Africa’s WASH For Wellbeing Strategy, frontline programming, global advocacy efforts, and the evolution of water policies and commitments at the national level, exemplified by Nigeria’s approach of emphasising sanitation, through the Federal Government’s 2018 Clean Naija Initiative supported by multi-sector CSR and CSO partners, and the highly welcomed Presidential decision to revise the nomenclature and responsibilities of the Federal Ministry of Water Resources to integrate and activate – “and Sanitation”.
The 2019 Stockholm International Water Institute commitments, and collective action since, through promotion of the United Nations and World Health Organization Resolution 64/292 which recognises the human right to water and sanitation, and acknowledges that clean water and sanitation are essential to the realisation of equitable human health, marked a turning point in addressing global water challenges. These commitments highlighted the necessity of collective action and innovation to ensure water security for all. The global community acknowledged the need to explore innovative solutions that extend beyond traditional water management methods. This paved the way for a wave of initiatives, collaborations, and policies aimed at nurturing a sustainable relationship with water.
The Wellbeing Foundation Africa has since actualised its commitments, emerging as a premier thematic non-state grassroots and on the ground implementer of #WASH and wellbeing. The foundation’s comprehensive approach through the Primary and Adolescent PSHE WASH and WBFA Dettol Nigeria Hygiene Quest programming, combining education, community engagement, and sustainable infrastructure, has led to tangible impact in water access and hygiene practices for over 43,194 mothers, schoolchildren and community members in 96 schools and 96 communities and a further 35 health care facilities with a clustered saturation model of beneficial change.
By empowering local communities to become stewards of their water resources, WBFA’s innovative practice sows the seeds of change at the fundamental level. Characterised by our proliferation of escalating impactful water, sanitation and hygiene education, and integrating the reduction of open defecation and fighting malaria through control of vector borne transmission through improved sanitation management of drainage water resources, the holistic elevation of communal wellbeing drives positive behavioural and social change intergenerationally, and works towards achieving key targets, highlighting the tangible outcomes of this dynamic cross-sector seeds for action now, towards the 2030 goals, specifically Goal 3: ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages, and Goal 6: ensure access to water and sanitation for all.
Nigeria’s journey towards water resilience from the 2018 declaration of a State Of Emergency in water, sanitation and hygiene, to the 2023 focus on water resources for effective sanitation, demonstrates the transformative power of national policies. Recognizing the interplay between water, health, and development, Nigeria has now set its feet and hands on the path and pipes of pursuing practical and innovative approaches to water management, especially through the inclusion of sanitation. By integrating traditional and cultural understanding, with modern innovation, the nation can pave the way for sustainable agricultural practices, efficient water distribution, and resilient infrastructure in hygiene.
As we gather for World Water Week 2023, the theme “Seeds of Change” serves as a reminder that innovation is the cornerstone of a water-wise and water-secure world. Through dynamic and groundbreaking solutions, sharing success stories, and fostering collaboration, we can ensure discussions surrounding precision agriculture and water-saving technologies to nature-based solutions and policy innovations, take place holistically, and lead to flourishing measures including the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals across sectors and borders.
Through cultivating these seeds of change, we continue to collaborate, innovate, and invest in a water-secure world for ourselves and generations yet to come. The path to water resilience is illuminated by our shared commitment to change – one drop, one innovation, and one policy at a time.