Access to safe drinking water has continued to pose a challenge to Nigerians, especially children and residents of rural communities. In 2021, UNICEF reports that over 86 percent of Nigerians lack access to a safely managed drinking water source while the problem is compounded by poor drinking water quality and lack of equity in access.
The Water Sanitation Hygiene (WASH NORM) 2019 report produced by the Federal Ministry of Water Resources revealed that about 70 percent of Nigerians have access to basic water services but more than half of these water sources are contaminated. And although 73 percent of the country’s population has access to a water source, only nine liters of water on average is available to a Nigerian daily. The UNICEF report also disclosed that about 26.5 million Nigerian children are experiencing high or extremely high water vulnerability.
Using unimproved water sources – the case of Ayangba
Being an essential item in every household, the use of water cannot be overemphasized; from drinking to cooking and for domestic chores, nothing can replace water. However, numerous households in Nigeria do not have access to improved water sources and are left with no choice.
Ayangba community in Katsina-Ala Local Government Area of Benue State is one of the communities faced with extreme difficulty to access water, as the major sources of water in the community are from streams far away from the community. Community members spend an average of 35 minutes for a round trip to fetch water from the river.
In an exclusive interview with BONews Service, Mrs. Mbamern Akaakase-Aga, a resident of Ayangba community, explained that lack of water supply and poor education system are the major challenges that the Anyagba community are experiencing.
Explaining the difficulties that the community experience, Mbamern explained that, “90% of our water supply comes from rivers and local reservoir while the other 10% comes from the ground – Well.”
She explained that women and children travel long distances to access water and because of the distance, they usually use wheelbarrows, so they are able to fetch a larger quantity.
“Carrying the water on our head through the long distance is a tough one and because of that, we would put a small drum of about 50 liters or more in a wheelbarrow and we can push that from the stream through the farmlands to the house.
“This water is what we will use to cook, drink, bathe, and for any other purposes. We dare not use the water to wash our clothes, instead, we would take the clothes to the stream, wash them there and fetch water back to the house,” she narrated.
She also mentioned that owing to the long distance, fetching of water is a rotational task among members of the household because traveling the long distance on a regular basis has health implications on those fetching it.
Linking the lack of water to poor education for their children and poor livelihood, Mbamern explained that, “our children get to school late after searching for water to wash their faces because they can’t afford to bathe every day of the week due to water scarcity.
“Some of them drop out of school and support their parents by fetching water that they can use on their farmlands.”
She also mentioned that “the water is not drinkable and we have to buy pure water at 300 naira or we barter 5 tubers of yam in exchange for one bag of pure water. You can imagine that we plant yam, harvest it, and then exchange it for water. Depending on the size of the yam, we could use 3 to 5 tubers of yam to get just one bag of pure water. What else could be more worrisome than that?”
Corroborating Mbamern’s account, Mr. Terkubu Ternege also noted that “the current challenges we face in our community is Health Care and Water. The lack of water is one way or the other linked to the poor healthcare systems that we have. This is because after we drink contaminated water, we are taken to healthcare centers that do not have adequate facilities to treat us and this cycle never ends,” he added.
Ternege said that “lack of water has really affected the development of our community and the growth of our children, our children get infected more regularly because of the bad water.”
He mentioned that “we source water through our streams which usually dry up during the dry season and are open to different contamination from other creatures that live in it.
“Getting water during the dry season is usually tug of war and sometimes we wonder what crime we have committed to have been lacking this essential gift of nature.”
The community residents appealed to political representatives, non-governmental organizations, and philanthropists to support the community with boreholes and/or improved sources of water, to ensure that they’re able to access safe drinking water.
Mrs. Mbamern Akaakase-Aga solicited help for the community noting that “we need to make our water safe for drinking, please help us in your capacity to drill a borehole in our community, so that we don’t travel a long distance to fetch water that is not even safe.”
On his part, Terkubu Ternege begged that “the kind of support our community needs right now is boreholes, with this at least, everyone will have access to clean water to drink and the future of our children will be safe and we all can live healthily.”
Achieving universal and equitable access to safe water by 2030
To achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6 which focuses on ensuring ‘Safe Water and Sanitation for All’ by 2030, state parties are required to increase their efforts.
The Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) report on Progress on household drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene (2000 – 2020) produced by WHO and UNICEF revealed that billions of people around the world will be unable to access safely managed household drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene services in 2030 unless the rate of progress quadruples.
Some of the indices to track progress on SDG6 according to the Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-Water (GLAAS), a UN-Water initiative implemented by WHO, are: ‘Existence of national WASH policies, Existence of national WASH implementation plans, Developed cost estimates for WASH plan, Sufficient financial resources to implement plans, and Sufficient human resources to implement plans.’
This article was produced by BONews Service in commemoration of World Water Day 2022 with the theme: ‘Ground Water: Making the Invisible Visible’.