In north central Nigeria, WASH facility ignites change in a rural community

Installed with funds from the European Union (EU), UNICEF and the Plateau State Government, the new water facility now supplies clean and safe water to the entire community via taps connected from a solar-powered borehole with a 24-litre tank capacity. 

Sam Kaalu
Handwashing
UNICEF Nigeria/2018/Owoicho

18 October 2019

The muscles in Lynda Jang Jik's arms stiffen as she pulls out an iron bucket from a deep, hand-dug well. Pouring the water into a plastic pail, the corners of her mouth curl into a smile in seeming contrast to her weary physical state. There is, however, good reason for her elevated mood. 

"I got married into this community six years ago and I go through this chore every day to get water for my family,” explained the 29-year-old mother of two. “But I'm excited all this has now come to an end -- all we have to do now to get the clean water is turn on a tap."

Before the provision of the new water facility, the only sources of water for Lynda's agrarian community of 4,000 people was hand-dug wells and streams. 

"We're truly happy with the new water facility,” reported Rebecca Samuel-- a fellow member of the community. “It has eased our pains in searching for water and we won't have to drink unclean water anymore.”

Installed with funds from the European Union (EU), UNICEF and the Plateau State Government, the new water facility now supplies clean and safe water to the entire community via taps connected from a solar-powered borehole with a 24-litre tank capacity. 

Provided alongside the water facility are segregated latrines for boys and girls at the community's primary school at Kwi, where 516 pupils – 256 girls and 260 boys – are now enjoying improved water supply, sanitation and hygiene services.  

"Clean water, basic toilets and good hygiene practices are critical for the survival and development of children," said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria. "Without these basic needs, the lives of millions of children are at risk.”

Adding, “We must do better for children by prioritizing WASH on the development agenda." 

Ambassador Ketil Karlsen, Head of the EU Delegation in Nigeria, reiterated the importance of water to the lives of children, while inaugurating the new facility.

"Children who do not have access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities are more likely to lose interest in pursuing learning opportunities because they are forced to spend more time in search for water during school hours or stay out of school to recover from illness caused by frequent episodes of diarrhea," said Karlsen. 

Mohammed Kamfut, UNICEF's (WASH) Specialist, explained why ensuring a water supply is not the only aspect of the intervention.  

"Sanitation and hygiene are equally important,” he stressed. “If you provide water without empowering people with sanitation and hygiene skills, the gains of improved water supply cannot be fully realized." 

To safeguard the benefits of this integrated approach, UNICEF, with support from the European Union and in collaboration with the Riyom local government area WASH Unit, trained the community's Water Sanitation and Hygiene Committee (WASHCOM) to manage and sustain the WASH interventions. The 15-member committee, comprising nine men and six women, goes house-to-house to sensitize community members on good hygiene and safe sanitation practices. As a result, every household in the community now owns a latrine and the community has been certified 'Open Defecation-free'.

At the community's primary school, an Environmental Health Club has been established and trained to promote and practice safe sanitation and hygiene, including group handwashing.

These are all crucial steps towards improving the WASH situation in Nigeria – a country where, according to the WASH National Outcome Routine Mapping (WASH NORM) 2018 report, 47 million Nigerians still practice open defecation, only 11 per cent have access to complete basic water, sanitation and hygiene services, and only 13 per cent of schools have access to basic water and sanitation services. 

The EU, together with UNICEF and other development partners, is supporting the government of Nigeria to protect the rights of children through the provision of safe water, sanitation, and hygiene services in locations across the country.  

"With our water problems now solved, we the women of Lo-gwom community can direct our time and energy to other things other than the search for the water," proclaimed Lynda triumphantly.