Families who migrated in search of water finally return home

The arrival of clean, safe water in Kuka Bakwai has prompted the return of families to the community where villagers perceive that water-borne diseases have declined.

Oluwatosin Akingbulu
UNICEF Nigeria/2017/Akingbulu
22 March 2018

Kuka Bakwai, Takai, Kano State, 22 March 2018 – When Sabo Naira received visitors, he felt ashamed at the state of the scarce water he had to offer. The open hand-dug well in his village was polluted and unsafe, regularly sparking outbreaks of cholera and diarrhoea among the 300 households who used it.

‘’The situation in Kuka Bakwai was terrible,” the 45-year-old recalls. “The water was unsafe and there was disease everywhere. When we had visitors in the village, we were always ashamed to give them the water to drink.’’

Five years ago, the village’s fetid well finally ran dry leaving part of its population of 2,300 with little choice but to pack up and leave. Some moved to neighbouring communities where they could find enough water for themselves and their cattle.

UNICEF Nigeria/2017/Akingbulu
45-year-old Sabo Naira, chairman of the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Committee (WASHCom) leads other community members in the maintenance of the handpump borehole.

Abdulhamid Idris was among those who were forced to find a new home.

The 35-year-old explains, ‘’I had to move to Shengel village with my family when the well dried up. I did not want to stay for fear of disease outbreak. My children were still very young.’’

About 35.9% of the Nigerian population do not have access to clean water sources. The risks to their health are severe; diarrhoea in children, caused by poor sanitation and hygiene related disease is the second main source of infant mortality, after malaria, and the third main cause of under-five mortality.

One of the responses to tackling this issue has been the European Union-funded Supply and Sanitation Sector Reform Programme Phase 2 (WSSSRP II) implemented by UNICEF which included the installation of a hand pump borehole in Kuka Bakwai and similar responses in the six states of Kano, Jigawa, Yobe, Osun, Anambra and Cross River.

The arrival of clean, safe water in Kuka Bakwai has prompted the return of families to the community where villagers perceive that water-borne diseases have declined.

UNICEF Nigeria/2017/Akingbulu
Abdulhamid Idris and his family left Kuka Bakwai village when the only source of water dried up. They are now back to improved living conditions.

Abdulhamid was among the first to return in 2016 and is delighted to be home where living conditions for his family have improved dramatically.

‘’I moved back to Kuka Bakwai in April 2016 when I heard about the intervention by UNICEF,’’ he says. ‘’The children now go to school and they are happy with the changes. I do not plan to return to Shengel anymore.’’

To ensure the water flow remains constant and clean, and the borehole stays in use, a team from the community have been trained by UNICEF to service and repair the pump. A Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Committee (WASHCom) has also been established to raise funds from households to share the cost of maintaining their precious facility and promote healthy hygiene and sanitation standards at home. As chair of the WASHCom, Sabo Naira is willing to work to ensure that the families of Kuka Bakwai are never again forced to leave their homes because of water pollution or scarcity.