World Water Day: Bauchi Communities Count Their Blessings

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Water is one of the essentials of life as human, animal and plant survival cannot be guaranteed without it. Indeed water is life and this must informed the late Afrobeat maestro, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti’s evergreen song ‘Water no get enemy.’ It is so important that people go the extra mile to have it for their daily activities.
In the developing world, it is often common to find many people, mostly women and children in the villages and even urban centres trekking long distances in search of water. Nigeria’s National Demographic and Health Survey 2013 showed that only 49 percent of households in rural areas have access to safe water, compared to 76 percent in urban areas.
Many communities across the country, particularly in the northern part before now did not have access to portable water. Luckily enough, the story is changing. Thirty three-year old Rukayya Usman, a resident of Dango community in Shira Local Government Area of Bauchi State recalled vividly in a chat with LEADERSHIP Sunday how a few years ago getting water to cook, wash and do other household chores was difficult as wells in the community had dried up resulting in acute water shortage. Those residents who could afford it, had to rely on vendors for their daily supply of water.
The lack of adequate water supply as described by Usman was not peculiar to Dango community; it was a reality faced and is still being faced by many communities not only in rural areas, but also in towns and cities across the state. People today are heaving a sigh of relief as UNICEF in collaboration with the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) is implementing the Sanitation, Hygiene and Water in Nigeria (SHAWN) Project to provide potable water by drilling boreholes for the rural populace in the state.
In Usman’s community, a motorized solar borehole was drilled and it is now taking care of over 11 communities, which now have access to clean drinking water thereby making life more meaningful for the people.
“The solar borehole is very important to us here. We are seeing the usefulness of it and we are happy with it. Dango has been blessed,” she told LEADERSHIP Sunday, adding “before now life was very difficult. We used to trek long distances to access water but all that is now a thing of the past.
“We are healthier now as diseases have been reduced to the barest minimum in this community and other benefitting villages. We are grateful and happy life is more enjoyable now. Then getting water was very difficult even with your money you could not buy at times. The wells were too deep and the water inside them often dried up, especially in the dry season. But now it is at our doorstep.”
Another resident of Dango, Zuwaira Malam Sabo, also appreciated the contributions of DFID and UNICEF for the intervention, pointing out that it had improved her life greatly as well as those of other residents, adding the solar borehole had helped tremendously.
“It has helped us live easy lives as we don’t have to trek long distances to access water.  The solar borehole caters for thousands of people in Dango and other communities as well. Its water is clean and safe to drink. Both young and old use it. You can see the difference even in your skin.
“The fact that you don’t have to struggle before you get water for washing your clothes is a great relief to many women in this community. The wells we have here have all spoilt,” added Zuwaira.
UNICEF, in collaboration with the Bauchi State government has also sunk boreholes in Nahuce and Farin Dutse communities of Shira Local Government Area of the state. Prior to the drilling of the borehole, the people of Farin Dutse community had no borehole and their nearest source of water was a stream, which is a distance of three hours from the community.
With the provision of water and in order to ensure that the people subscribe to the ideals of healthy living, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Committees (WASHCOMs) were formed in the benefitting communities and this has helped in creating awareness on hygienic practices and the importance of defecating in latrines.
Through monthly contributions, the WASHCOMs also support latrine construction and raise funds for the repair of boreholes. They also conduct house-to-house visits to ensure homes have the proper sanitation and hygiene facilities with female WASHCOM members talking to women on personal hygiene.
One interesting thing at Farin Dutse is the fact that residents have taken it upon themselves to practice good hygiene. The result of this is that in the public toilet in the community, there is always soap to wash one’s hands after vising the toilet and a pair of slippers to use. Before now, there was no latrine in the community and open defecation was the common practice. Today there are household latrines and the community has been declared open-defecation free, meaning that no one in this community defecates in the open but in latrines.
According to Shanono Maigari, a WASHCOM coordinator at Farin Dutse, the drilling of the borehole has complemented their lifestyle in many ways.
“Farin Dutse as a community is very grateful to UNICEF for the SHAWN project because it has impacted positively on our lives, particularly on the health of our wives and children. Before the implementation of WASHCOM, our children were always sick as a result of drinking contaminated water,” he told LEADERSHIP Sunday.
He said UNICEF and the Bauchi State Rural Water and Sanitation Agency (RUWASA) had also trained members on borehole maintenance, basic bookkeeping and general roles and responsibilities, adding the committee “shares its messages with the community at social gatherings such as naming ceremonies and weddings.”
Maigari expressed delight with the project and the general awareness it has created with every member of the community contributing in one way or the other to raise funds for the repair and maintenance of boreholes. He also hailed the conduct of house-to-house visits to ensure homes have the proper sanitation and hygiene facilities, with female WASHCOM members talking to women on personal hygiene.
The leader of Nahuce community, Rabiu Mohammad, commended the Shira Local Government Council for educating the community on the significance of safe water for drinking and other domestic purposes and stressed the need for the community to continue to maintain the water facilities provided for them by UNICEF as well as ensure hygienic and habitable environment.
The WASH consultant in Shira LGA commended the communities for adhering strictly to routines on hygiene and making efforts to use clean water. “From the inception of this project, the communities have been doing what they are supposed to do. They have been doing well in terms of maintaining their water and sanitation facilities which UNICEF/ DFID have over three years given them. So I think there is great improvement in these communities,” he told LEADERSHIP Sunday.
He further noted: The only thing I want to add here is they still need good awareness in terms of hygiene practice because women and children are still lagging behind, especially children who are the main target of the project. In terms of water facilities, they have done greatly.”
He, however, lamented the lack of operational funds for WASH at local government level, which he described as a big challenge and called on the WASH at the local level to give more support.
The phase 2 of the SHAWN Project being executed in some states in Nigeria is aimed at getting about 28,000 communities in Nigeria to be open defecation free by the end of 2018. The SHAWN-II project is geared at empowering communities to eliminate open defecation in their surroundings and enable citizens to be in charge of their environmental sanitation.
SHAWN-II being funded by UKAid, Government and UNICEF is intended to reach seven million people with access to basic sanitation, water supply and hygiene awareness in the programme’s six states of Bauchi, Benue, Jigawa, Katsina, Kaduna and Zamfara by November 2018.
The participating states have undertaken financial commitment to allocate the sum of  N420 million as part of the initial counterpart contribution towards realizing SHAWN-II project goals, which aim at maximizing the impact of water, sanitation and hygiene with a view to linking same with other sectoral interventions  in the areas of health, nutrition and education.

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