By Adedapo Adesanya The World Bank has approved a credit of $700 million for the Urban and Rural Sustainable Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene Program (SURWASH) in Nigeria. This was disclosed by the Bretton Wood institution in an announcement on Thursday in Washington D.C. According to the statement, the loan will provide six million people with basic drinking water services and 1.4 million people with access to improved sanitation services. It would also provide improved water sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services to 2,000 schools and health care facilities and help 500 communities achieve open defecation free status. These would be implemented as part of the federal government\u2019s National Action Plan (NAP) for the Revitalization of the Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene Sector in Nigeria. \u201cIn 2019, around 60 million Nigerians lived without access to basic drinking water services, 80 million without access to improved sanitation facilities and 167 million without access to a basic handwashing facility. \u201cIn rural areas, 39 per cent of households do not have access to at least basic water supply services, while only half have access to improved sanitation facilities and almost a third (29 per cent) practice open defecation, a proportion that has changed slightly since 1990,\u201d the statement said. The bank, however, said in recent years that the federal government has stepped up its commitment to improving access to WASH services, spurred by the need for Nigeria\u2019s WASH sector to catch up with regional counterparts. This, it said, led the government to declare a state of emergency in 2018 and launch a NAP aimed at ensuring universal access to sustainable and safely managed WASH services by 2030, up to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It was also noted that the programme would support the NAP 13-year strategy prioritizing action in three phases. "These are the emergency plan, the recovery plan and the revitalization strategy as well as Clean Nigeria; Use the toilet campaign that aims to free Nigeria from open defecation by 2025." Mr Shubham Chaudhuri, World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, said the central role of the program in the human capital agenda and its potential to influence key human capital outcomes cannot be overstated. He said this was because access to WASH was an important determinant of human capital outcomes, including early childhood survival, nutrition, health, learning and women\u2019s empowerment, which in turn affected the productivity and efficiency of work. \u201cParticipating states will be able to improve access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene\u201d. \u201cThis will help keep more girls in school, create jobs and reduce open defecation, while developing greater resilience to the impact of climate change and to conflicts between different users of land and water," he said. The SURWASH program is performance-based and participation is open to all states in Nigeria on the basis of their commitment to specific reforms in the sector. It would help the federal government adopt the necessary policy reforms and engage state and local governments, service providers, technical assistance providers and community organizations to effectively deliver sustainable services in the sector. The bank said it would also support a package of investments to expand access and increase the use of WASH services in urban areas, small towns and rural areas. \u201cMore specifically, the program will support the development of infrastructure to improve the provision of water supply, sanitation and hygiene services in institutions (schools and health facilities) and public places such as markets, fleets and the like," the bank said.