LAGOS, Nigeria — The most basic ingredient for mankind’s survival is also a critical weapon against the novel coronavirus. Wash your hands with soap and water for 30 seconds, scientists say. Drink eight glasses of water a day. Stay hydrated and hygienic.
But access to clean water is dramatically uneven across the world. About a third of Nigeria’s population — 60 million people — must leave home to find it, according to aid groups and government statistics.
In this pandemic, venturing out to the nearest pump has meant risking exposure to the virus or a clash with police. Officers and soldiers enforcing lockdowns killed 18 Nigerians over a two-week period this spring, the country’s independent National Human Rights Commission reported in April.
As of Wednesday, 200 people had died of covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, but doctors worry that the true number could be much higher. Some areas, such as Kano state, have recorded far more deaths than usual.
Africa’s most populous country eased restrictions earlier this month, allowing citizens to go outside with masks — a move to revive the sputtering economy, the president said. Some vow to stay indoors because cases are spiking. (Nigeria’s count this week surpassed 6,600.)
Others don’t have that choice.
The following interviews have been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.
39, actress in the Iyana-Ipaja neighborhood of Lagos
I live in a compound with three other families. Each family has a room, and they share the bathroom and kitchen space.
I live in one with my 14-year-old daughter.
We don’t have tap water, so we have someone who fetches water for us. We pay 300 naira for 10 jerrycans. Sometimes, we get it twice a week. We keep the water in the containers outside.
I’m very scared of that coronavirus. The hunger and the sickness. Everyone is broke: no food, no money. We don’t want to die.
Rice used to be 250 naira ($0.64). Now it’s 500 ($1.28). Can you imagine?
After we come from the market, we bring the water from our containers, and I shower right there. I remove my clothes and wash them.
We have spent everything that we have. There is no income. I’m really broke now. The government should just provide for the people. We need security because there are a lot of robberies around. We even need soldiers.
Whenever there is power, I turn on my TV. I have some…