Shallow wells no more
A Dutch-funded project provides safe water in underserved schools, health centres and communities in conflict-affected Borno and Yobe States
A black tyre, one plank and seven large stones were the only landmarks of a shallow well that had served the Dogon Kuka Primary Health Centre in north-east Nigeria for over ten years.
The well, located just beside the facility, supported the sanitation and hygiene needs of staff and patients who came from as far as Allangafe Kare Kare, a community of over 300 kilometers away from the centre, in the Fune Local Government Area of Yobe State.
“The well has been our only source of water for many years,’’ said Fatsuma Nuhu, who is in charge of the facility.
“We used the water to clean the toilets, surfaces and bed sheets for patients. Even with the outbreak of COVID-19, the well remained our only source of water. It was challenging to have water fetched with a bucket by one staff person. If the water finished after he left work at 2:30 pm, that was it - there would be no more water for that day. To prevent running out, we became very frugal with how much we used,’’ she said.
But all that is now in the past. A giant borehole recently constructed by UNICEF, with funding support from the government of The Netherland (DGIS) now sits just outside the health centre. The borehole, with a distribution reach of 1 km, is providing safe, potable water for the community and the health centre. Water now flows abundantly for the use of patients and staff members inside the centre.
According to the World Health Organization, lack of access to safe water and improved sanitation are linked to diseases such as cholera and diarrhea, both of which can be fatal to children and adults. Also, hand hygiene and infection control are impossible in the face of water scarcity.
With frequent washing of hands said to cut infection rates by as much as 40 per cent, the availability of safe water for sanitation purposes has never been more important in schools, health centres and communities, especially to prevent COVID-19 infection.
The Dutch-funded project provides safe potable water in underserved schools, health centres and communities in conflict-affected Borno and Yobe States. Under the DGIS project, 57 handpumps have been constructed and 50 handpumps rehabilitated across Fune and Geidam local government areas of Yobe State. Three solar boreholes were constructed, while 10 others were rehabilitated across communities and health centres in the state. In less than two years, over 45,000 people have benefited from easier access to water and improved sanitation.
“Now there are no restrictions on water usage. Patients can wash their hands whenever they need. There are drugs that we give pregnant women that they must take right at the centre, with water. The borehole has made it easier for women to take these drugs now. There is also enough water for mothers to bathe their children. It has been such a relief for us,’’ said Nuhu.