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At a glance: Nigeria

In Nigeria, a partnership for improved sanitation, hygiene and safe water

By Samuel Kaalu

Once a long way from water and lacking proper hygiene and sanitation practices, a small community in Nigeria has benefitted noticeably from a multiyear project aimed at changing behaviours and reaching millions with clean water.

BAUCHI, Nigeria, 15 January 2015 – As Jamila Nuhu, 25, replaces the cover of the plastic jug she has filled at a hand pump a few minutes’ walk from her home, she remembers how she used to walk long distances in search of water. A few years ago, she would have trekked hours in each direction. Today it takes five minutes.

© UNICEF Nigeria/2014/Kaalu
Jamila Nuhu, 25, pumps water at a borehole located near her house in Tsohongarin Lukshi, north-eastern Nigeria.

The borehole was constructed by UNICEF in 2012 with funding from the UK Department for International Development (DFID), as part of the Sanitation, Hygiene and Water in Nigeria project (SHAWN). Before then, the people of Tsohongarin Lukshi in Bauchi State, north-east Nigeria, had no borehole, and their nearest source of water was a stream three hours from the community.

“The stream is very far away from our village. By the time we find water and return home, we are too tired to do anything for the rest of the day,” says Ms. Nuhu. “And it wasn’t exactly clean water we got, coming from the stream.”

Changing behaviour

Along with bringing water to Tsohongarin Lukshi, the SHAWN project also helped change behavior among the 807 residents of this farming community.

In 2012, there was no latrine here, and open defecation was a common practice. Today there are 72 household latrines, and the community has been declared open-defecation free.

The Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Committee (WASHCOM), formed in the community in 2012 and made up of five men and four women, has helped raise awareness on hygiene practices and the importance of defecating in latrines. UNICEF and the Rural Water and Sanitation Agency (RUWASA) have also trained members on borehole maintenance, basic bookkeeping and general roles and responsibilities. The committee shares its messages with the community at social gatherings such as naming ceremonies and weddings.

Ms. Nuhu, a beneficiary of the WASHCOM’s efforts, demonstrates her knowledge. Before entering her kitchen to start cooking, she washes her hands with soap. “Hand washing with soap before cooking keeps the food from contamination from dirty hands and protects my family from disease,” she says. 

Through monthly contributions, the committee also supports latrine construction and raises funds for the repair of boreholes, and it conducts house-to-house visits to ensure homes have the proper sanitation and hygiene facilities, with female WASHCOM members talking to women on personal hygiene.

Improving health

Istifanus Musa, 39, a health worker at Tsohongarin Lukshi Maternity Health Clinic, leafs through the clinic record book and reads out some statistics. “In 2012, we had 40 cases of diarrhoea, 20 cases of dysentery and 28 cases of typhoid reported at the clinic. In 2013, the numbers were 27 for diarrhoea, 22 for dysentery and 13 for typhoid fever. So I would say that the trend is on the decline,” he says. 

© UNICEF Nigeria/2014/Kaalu
Getting their water at the borehole, the women of Tsoshongarin Lukshi no longer have to walk hours in search of water from distant streams.

He attributes the declining cases of waterborne diseases at the clinic to safe water and improved sanitation and hygiene in the community. With the record from January to September 2014 showing 10 cases of diarrheoa, 19 cases of dysentery and 10 for typhoid, one is inclined to agree.

Bioye Ogunjobi, UNICEF Water and Sanitation Officer, says the SHAWN project has brought about changes in the entire Dass Local Government Area (LGA) where the project is being implemented. “Before the intervention, there were 3,965 household latrines in Dass LGA. But we now have a total of 36,076 household latrines and 305 public toilets,” says Mr. Ogunjobi. “All the 351 communities in Dass LGA are no longer defecating in the open and are now open defecation free.” 

In terms of water supply, the project has provided 308 hand pumps and motorized boreholes, compared to 116 in 2010. The number of beneficiaries with improved access to water has also risen from 40,316 to 77,507.

According to 2013 Nigeria’s National Demographic and Health Survey, only 49 per cent of households in rural areas have access to safe water, compared to 76 per cent in urban areas; in terms of sanitation, 25 per cent of rural households have access to improved sanitation, compared to 37 per cent in urban areas.

With the SHAWN project spread over eight local government areas, Jamila Nuhu is one of the over a million people in Bauchi State it is expected to reach by 2018 with access to safe drinking water, improved sanitation and support for proper hygiene practices.



UNICEF Photography: Water, sanitation & hygiene

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