BY: Bukola Afeni
Naomi Godwin, a mother of two, resides in Katampe 11, a suburb of Mpape in Bwari Area Council. Just a few kilometres from the highbrow Maitama, in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city. Sadly, the majority of the residents do not have access to potable water presently. “Naomi has lived in Katampe for more than four years. She has to trek long distances before she will access clean water for the domestic use of her household. Residents of the community who resorted to consuming water from a nearby river had to battle infections.”
The women and girls in the community often go through much discomfort while they are on their menstrual cycle. “Godwin said”. We need water while carrying out our daily activities such as washing, cooking and general cleaning to prevent the spread of disease.
“The electricity supply in the area is epileptic, and accessing borehole water is also a bit difficult. We hope to see changes in the provision of amenities. Sometimes we have to trek for close to an hour to get water from the river. We hope the government can help to provide water for us as soon as possible. We pass through a lot of hardship before accessing portable water. We usually utilize dirty water when we do not have money to purchase water from the borehole”.
The wife of Katampe II village head Rhoda Zakar said the cost of fetching water runs deep into the pockets.
According to UNICEF, the World Bank says Nigeria allocates 1.7 percent of the current Gross Domestic Product to meet its water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) needs. The scale is higher for rural sanitation where the gap for improved services is 64.1 percent. Funding for the sub-sector is weak, and significant household contribution is needed to eliminate open defecation despite low family incomes.
Zakar explained that women usually face the brunt of water shortage, especially at home.
“Women and girls have to ensure that the home is adequately cleaned daily,” she said. During the menstrual cycle, we need enough portable water to be able to maintain a high level of hygiene.”
According to the 2021 Water, Sanitation and Hygiene National Outcome Routine Mapping (WASH-NORM) III report, basic water supply services are available to 67 percent of the population at 92 percent access levels, the richest households are twice more likely to use basic water supply services than the poorest households with 46 percent.
The Minister of Water Resources Suleiman Adamu, speaking recently at the launching of the WASHNORM report highlighted those disparities also exist between urban areas and rural areas, the most common sources of drinking water recorded by households were boreholes/tubewells, and only 11 per cent of the household population use pipe-borne water Nigerians still defecate openly
“About a quarter of the population still depend on unimproved and surface water supply for their daily water needs, access to sanitation indicators across the country shows a slight improvement, though open defecation is still prevalent.10 percent of the population have access to basic water, sanitation and hygiene services, and 6% of the health facilities have basic water sanitation and hygiene s.” Adamu added.
Zakar is pessimistic about the Federal Capital Territory Water Board providing water for the village. “She, however, believes donation of boreholes to the community could solve some of their problems.”
The United Nations Children Education Fund (Unicef) disclosed that poor access to improved water and sanitation in Nigeria remains a major contributing factor to high morbidity and mortality rates among children under five
The body said the use of contaminated drinking water and poor sanitary conditions result in increased vulnerability to water-borne diseases, including diarrhoea, which leads to the deaths of more than 70,000 children under five annually.
According to UNICEF, frequent episodes of WASH-related ill-health in children, contribute to absenteeism in school, and malnutrition. Only 26.5 percent of the population use improved drinking water sources and sanitation facilities. Also, 23.5 per cent of the population defecates in the open
I have stayed without water for years in this vicinity,” another resident of Katampe II Charity Michael said. Sometimes I fetch water from the well, at other times I trek long distances opposite the Chief Palace to get water. To even wash clothes is a great task, even women during their menstrual cycle often experience a feeling of discomfort due to lack of water.”
“Some residents of this community are down with waterborne disease due to the colouration. Another issue we pass through is that using the water to bathe has led to some reaction in the body which causes body itching or leads to some diseases.”
“Even though some of us are used to the river water and do not react. We have to queue for some hours before we access water daily. The hours we spend on the queue, we can use it for other meaningful activities.”
A staff of the FCT Water Board John Peter said Abuja is developing in phases, and some of the new suburbs are not part of the original plan. She added that Mpape is not captured in the FCT town development master plan.
“These are some of the issues that we are trying to resolve, and you can not take water to an area that is not a permanent site, Peter said”. The FCT development board is in charge of allocating structures. We need to ponder on what will happen to the water when the resident moves away from the settlement.”
A reliable source at The Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency (RUWASA) who prefers to be anonymous said the government must make budgetary allocation for WASH to improve access to water in rural areas.
“In situations where there is no allocation of resources for WASH in some communities, the private sector steps in for the provision of water through Corporate social responsibility,” the source said. The private sector in the vicinity of such communities can come together and provide borehole in partnership with RUWASA, and handover to the community for proper coordination and monitoring.”
He advised the community leader and residents to reach out to RUWASA management and seek the support of some corporate organizations for the provision of borehole water to communities in the FCT.
This story was supported by the African Data Hub Community Journalism Fellowship Program.