Water and Sanitation Hygiene, WASH is a UNICEF; EU project and in all accounts comes with many benefits for people in rural communities where these projects are executed and this includes settling of domestic squabbles which hitherto was common in homes due to scarcity of water, writes Joyce Remi- Babayeju.
From creation water has being an essential part of life and without it there can never be human existence, but in addition to the usefulness of water.
In communities where hitherto there was scarcity of clean water other than the usual source of water from village streams, availability of water from clean source such as boreholes has become an essential social infrastructure that is also brokering peace in many homes.
Happenings have shown that lack of good source of water in communities and homes often times brings a lot of misunderstandings and domestic squabbles among families and especially between husbands and wives, parents and their children.
Also often quarrels ensue between women and girls who go to fetch water from the only available stream. There are also instances where women are beaten up by their husbands because they return late from fetching water from the streams. Lack of water in homes have caused even dissolution of marriages where husbands have accused their wives of infidelity and girls raped either while going or returning from streams.
Water is used for purposes like cooking, bathing, drinking, after defecation and other domestic purposes.
This is why it is pertinent that governments at the three tiers in the country to invest more in this essential commodity. The Federal Government on its part have always being rhetorical about providing clean and safe water to citizens. The truth is that government in all spheres is finding it difficult to provide consumable water for its over 170 million population.
In 21st century Nigeria, in most cities like the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Lagos, Port Harcourt , water is a luxury as the majority citizens still patronise and depend on water vendors commonly known as ‘’Meruwa’’ for water supply.
At a media dialogue on WASH in Akwa Ibom State, a UNICEF WASH Specialist Moustapha Niang explained that only 57.48 % of the total of Nigerians has access to improved water supply and that still 8 million people are without water supply.
The value of clean water cannot be over emphasised in homes as it sure brings peace and bliss into homes. And for this the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF and the European Union, EU’s contribution of WASH projects in the form of mechanised boreholes for clean source of water to ruralities cannot be forgotten in a hurry by its beneficiaries.
For families in Nsit Atai Local Government of Uyo in Akwa Ibom State the closeness of water via boreholes to their homes has increased love between husbands and their wives and understanding between parents and their children.
Instead of trekking for hours to fetch water, now water is very very close to the people. All that needs to be done is to take buckets to the boreholes, turn on the taps and clean water gushes into their buckets, basins and other containers for quick use in homes.
Women now get home fast enough to cook, attend to their husband and children. The closeness of source of water to these women has brought a turnaround even in the love life of couples, they testify.
A housewife, Mrs. Imoh Effiom, resident of Nsit Atai community said that before the village was blessed with borehole, life was generally intolerable for them as women and wives because of the sufferings they go through to get water to their homes for domestic use. Their sufferings were both physical and emotional.
Effiom said, ‘’it takes women and girls long hours to trek to the streams. We usually spend long hours bathing; washing clothes and putting them to dry before getting back home late in the evenings.’’
Everyday women leave their homes in the early hours of the day and come back at dusk. This amounts to long loss of hours away from their homes and most times causes domestic violence.
Mrs Effiom who said she was a victim of wife battering due to non availability of water in her village, said that domestic squabbles was rampant as husbands often accuse their wives of infidelity because they spend long hours at the stream. Lack of water has caused divorce, she said.
‘’There is no trust between husbands and their wives and worst still adolescent girls could be raped while coming back home from fetching water from the streams at night.’’
The United Nations Children Fund, UNICEF in collaboration with the European Union, EU has provided boreholes in selected communities in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria.
The water project under the UNICEF, EU, WASH programme is a five year Niger Delta support project which started in 2013 designed to address problems in selected states like Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo and Rivers.
According to UNICEF WASH Specialists, the overall objective of the rural component of the Niger Delta support programme is mitigate the conflict in the region by addressing the main causes.
The UNICEF, EU WASH specific objective is to contribute to strengthening of social bonding and peace building among communities in the project states through local capacity building and provision of access to improved sources of safe drinking water and basic sanitation in ten self-selected Local Government Areas in the Project states.
In line with this, it is to increase access to safe and sustainable water supply services in rural communities in self selected local government areas and to increase access to improved sanitation and proper hygiene practice in rural communities and schools especially those in suburbs.
Under the safe water supply project at least 1,028,000 number of people have access to safe water for drinking , cooking and personal hygiene and in selected states under the Niger Delta region water supply project 448,058 people, making a total of about 44% of the people now have safe supply of water.
Key achievements in water supply in rural communities in this region shows that 206,954 additional people gained access to safe water against a target of 543,00.
According to a UNICEF breakdown, in Rivers State 23,800 have access to water supply, in Akwa Ibom State- 8,700 people, Edo State 42,690 people, Delta State 128, 214 people and Bayelsa State 3, 5550 people.
A UNICEF WASH Specialist, Martha Hokonya at a media dialogue on Water, hygiene and sanitation speaking on why governments should invest in water noted that aside from the sanitation and hygiene advantage, clean water improves social bonding and mitigates conflicts.
‘’Water promotes quality family time and gives women more time for husband and child care and for relaxation. This is because carrying containers for domestic use over very long distances most times brings family squabbles.’’
‘’Water promotes productivity in homes by lessening the time spent by women and children to fetch water, increases school attendance and performance especially by girls.’’
‘’Aside from the usual use of clean water, it promotes hygiene in homes and menstrual hygiene for women and girls’’ and above all it settles domestic squabbles because of closeness to people and homes.
Moustapha Niang noted that water safety plan is the process to ensure safe water from the source to the point of consumption and that based on the quality of water in the Niger Delta region and in Nigeria as a whole, the Federal Ministry of Water Resources with support from UNICEF developed the safe water project to mitigate sufferings of people in the region.
Water aside from being used as peace broker in homes and communities, has other contributory factors such as increasing health statues of families as poor water sanitation and hygiene in homes causes more than half of diarrheal cases for under fives and general ill health of individuals.
The usefulness of water can be said to be multidimensional so it would be wise the Federal Government, States and Local Governments to invest in this essential commodity for the healthy living of Nigerians and particularly for peace in homes and communities.