Water they say is life. Water is an essential commodity for human survival and without it there cannot be good and healthy living. Lack of clean source of water in communities often brings lots of hardship with associated ill health and diseases. Joyce Remi- Babayeju looks at how UNICEF, EU water and sanitation hygiene, WASH, projects have saved communities in Akwa Ibom from water borne diseases.
Augustine Carlos Ukpong, a 28 year old, generator repairer is an indigene of Ikot Esop community in Nsit Atai Local Government Area in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, is now a happy young man from his looks.
The Ukpong’s beamish smile even when not necessary could not be farfetched, because the young man’s happy mood would evoke curiosity of a cat. You would be prompted to ask him; what is the cause of this happiness?
He was quick to tell anyone that cared to ask that his village Ikot Esop now has clean and portable water courtesy of the European Union, EU, in partnership of the United Nation’s Children Fund, UNICEF borehole project under the Water and Sanitation Hygiene, WASH Project.
‘’Ikot Esop village is now blessed with clean water. I can now drink clean water. I cook , wash and even bath using clean water from the borehole project and tippy tap open defecation free toilet project UNICEF and EU WASHCOM Project in Ikot Esop village’’, Ukpong happily said.
According to him, the only source of water for the villagers is water from the popular Ikot Esop stream which other surrounding communities like Ikot Obiam, Ikot Nsop also use, this is because Ikot Esop river never dries. These communities has being using water from this river for a very long time, in fact since I was born we have being using this river.
The only source of water for the villagers is the Ikot Esop stream which is invested by algae and other weeds which often causes water borne diseases like diarrhea, cholera, typhoid and other contagious diseases and villagers have long endured such illnesses which claims the many lives.
Also indigenes of Ikot Ukpong village, a neighboring community are also basking in the euphoria of WASH borehole water project as they proudly show off to visitors.
On behalf of the indigenes of her community, Woman Leader and WASHCOM treasurer of Ikot Ukpong community, Deaconess Eno John Ibok with other women showed gratitude for the WASH project sited in her community which they say has saved them the burden of going daily to get water from their local stream.
She said,’’ I thank God for this water project because since I was born into this village we have never experienced any good thing such as this borehole clean water project.’’
‘’It takes women and girls long hours to trek to and from the only stream in this village to get water for our domestic chores. We also spend long hours bathing, washing our clothes and putting them to dry before coming back home.’’
‘’We used to suffer going to the stream and most times our pots break after fetching water from the stream but now we do not experience such because UNICEF has provided us water for free which we can draw from tap’’, Deaconess Ibok said.
The Niger Delta region of Nigeria and especially communities locked up in the creeks are endowed with abundant water yet the communities are bereft of clean and portable water.
Lack of treated clean source of water over the years has contributed to the high rate of water borne diseases among children, especially the under fives, women and entire communities suffer. Often there are outbreaks of diarrhea, malaria, typhoid and the likes in whole communities.
For the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, by the year2030, the European Union in collaboration with UNICEF under the water and sanitation hygiene, WASH; project has sited boreholes providing clean and portable water to communities in Delta, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom, Rivers and Edo States.
WASH project provides boreholes for safe and portable water and tippy taps for eradication of open defecation and toilet hygiene practices in communities to help eradicate outbreaks of water borne and sanitation diseases in whole communities.
According to the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, MICS, 2013 Report, only 57.48% of Nigerians have access to improved water supply which is a far cry to the SDG agenda for sustainable health for all by 2030.
At a recent media dialogue on WASH in EU supported states water supply and water quality, in Uyo, akwa Ibom , State, Moustapha Niang, WASH Specialist, UNICEF, in a presentation disclosed that of the 57.48% of national average of Nigerians who have access to clean and portable water.
The Niger Delta region make up only 16.57%, which means that 32million out of a population of 190million people have access to improved water supply with Akwa Ibom having 76.3%, Rivers 86.4%, Delta 75.1%, Bayelsa 27.5% and Edo 73.2%.
According to Niang, there are still challenges in the Niger Delta region even after provision of boreholes to communities.
He said, ‘’There are cases of faecal contamination some months after boreholes are drilled and in use. There are cases of nitrate contamination also due to seepage from nearby latrines and the use of fertilizers and pesticides for agricultural purposes, adding that Bayelsa is particularly plagued with iron and manganese contamination, and this brings about issues which can lead to rejection of the water provided the people.’’
Niang said that water is a big problem in Nigeria and a good population of should to have access to clean water now in the country.
‘’It is the focus of UNICEF to partner with government to get this target by 2020 and partnership means we should have motorized borehole in urban and rural communities’’, he noted.
In consonance, UNICEF WASH Specialist, Martha Hokonya in a presentation ‘’Why invest in water?, further noted that clean water contributes to increased health status of populations, adding that poor WASH causes more than half of global diarrheal diseases which remains the second leading cause of morbidity and mortality among children under five.
WASH conditions also contributes to other goals like poor nutrition, stunting, maternal and newborn health, Hokonya emphasized.
According to UNICEF report 57 million Nigerians do not have access to safe water supply and more than have of this population live in rural areas.
15 million Nigerians who reside in rural communities still drink water from rivers, lakes, ponds, streams and irrigation canals.
45, 000 Children under age five die annually from diseases caused to poor water, sanitation and hygiene.
UNICEF also noted that under the EU WASH project in the Niger Delta region a total of 206,954 additional people gained access to safe water as against target of 543,000 people.
In Rivers State 23,800, Akwa Ibom State 8,700, Delta State 128,214, Bayelsa State 3,550 and Edo State 42,690 with water supply plans developed in 224 communities.
The Niger Delta support project with an overall EU funding of EUR 20,000,000 started from 2013. It is a five year project which is designed to address the peculiar problems in the region and to mitigate the conflict in the region, the WASH experts said.
If this project must be sustained and completely achieved to meet the 2030 SDG then states have to release their counterpart funds.
According to UNICEF source counterpart funding from states is N142 million and Akwa Ibom State has released paid the sum of N158 million which is 100%. Bayelsa State has released the sum of N158 million that is 100%. Rivers State N89 million which is 63% and Delta State N156 million and Edo State is still pending.
Like Moustapha said , ‘’ each government should commit one percent of their budget to water and sanitation, adding that due to the impact of WASH its impacts on multiple sectors is very cost effective and globally it is proven to yield between $3 to $7 per every dollar invested depending on the intervention and programme content. And this is the only way Nigeria achieve the SDG on water and sanitation hygiene for a healthy population.

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