We are dying of water borne diseases : residents of Ikola-Ilumo and Iju communities cry out

Dayo Emmanuel recently visited Ikola-Ilumo and Iju aga,  two communities in peri urban area of Lagos, the commercial capital of Nigeria; and brought tales of woes from residents over high cost of water supply coupled with lack of access to safe supplies

By  Dayo Emmanuel

Ikola-ilumo community

Ikola-ilumo community in Agbado /Oke Odo Local Council Development Area of Lagos State is among the rural communities springing up in the suburb of Nigeria’s commercial nerve centre.

Inhabited mainly by low income people and artisans, residents in the community however face the obvious challenges experienced by new and growing communities in the country. Plastered bungalows and other uncompleted buildings are prominent in the community which is home to people who have found cheaper accommodation in the peri urban settlement.

A cholera victim in Nigeria

With the recent establishment of a Local Government Primary School and a borehole facility, there seems to be a little signal of government’s presence.  Though without a single tarred road, a public clinic, the community can only ask for more. The erratic power supply makes it difficult for the few residents who operate personal boreholes to pump water regularly.

A community leader and one of the executives of the Community Development Association, Elder Emmanuel Okoko confirmed the erratic power supply in the neighbourhood. “We have power supply here just about three days in a week.  It is now worse than what we used to have perhaps due to more people moving in”, he said.

Okoko who retired from Lufthansa, German airlines after about 40 years of service settled in Ikola-Ilumo around 1999. “When I came here, people queried me why I decided to settle in the bush, today, this place is opening up, at lease the population is about 250,000.  The government should come to the aid of the teeming population”, he urged.

Cost of assessing water supply in the community is a source of concern to the growing population.  Mrs. Joan Emmanuel is a School Proprietress in Ikola-Ilumo laments the difficulties in assessing clean water which is causing sanitation problems for the teeming population.

“I am the Proprietress of Bright Horizon Schools in Peace Estate, Ilola-Ilumo and interacting with the parents here I found that water supply and sanitation is a major challenge”, said Emmanuel who noted that most people in the neighbourhood are low income earners and artisans whose take home remuneration cannot sustain rent in developed settlements outside the area.  She however identified poverty as a major problem of the people causing them to compromise clean water which is as important as life itself.

Most residents in the community are low income people earners who cannot afford to sink bore holes within their premises and have to rely on the community borehole and streams.  “For instance in my family of five, we spend N350 on a drum of water every day which amounts to about N10,000 a month, most people in the neighbourhood cannot afford that and this explains why people go for alternatives which are not too safe. If you come here early in the morning you will see people searching for water in nearby wells which is not safe enough for drinking”, said Emmanuel continuing that “with family income of about N800, 000 annually, spending N350 per day on water translates to about 15% of our income, I insist that most people in the community are not that comfortable”.

“There is a borehole provided by the Local Government somewhere in the community which provides water for houses close to it.  It is a good initiative but one borehole is just not enough to serve the large population because like I said, we are about 250,000 people here”, he noted.

However, many school children in the community also do not have access to adequate water supply.  Oluwatosin Moore a pupil of Skylight Secondary School:

We do not have borehole, but we have a well from which we fetch water needed for our sanitation.  As a female student, water is essential and the well water is what we have access to in the absence of pipe borne water from the government”, she said, adding that “we buy sachet water during break for drinking or we bring water from home because the well water is not safe for drinking”.

Ihuoma Okoko, a Chemist in the community also confirms the difficulty involved in getting clean water in the area said: “Like you can see, this community is neglected and water is difficult to get.  Those who compromise clean water must spend more in buying drugs, so I feel it is easier to spend more on water than to spend the money on drugs with associated pains”, adding that “the cost of water here in Ikola-Ilumo is more than what obtains in neighbouring Ipaja or Gowon Estate where there are tarred roads good enough for water tankers and sachet water trucks, the government should please come to our aid in this community to ensure safe water because apart from the cost of good water, our health is also at stake”.

Medical Director of God’s Goal Medical Centre, Ojo-Alaba, Lagos, and Dr. Gabriel Omonaiye said access to clean water and sanitation can prevent a lot of diseases and can actually safe lives. According to Omonaiye who has treated a lot of ailments which are fallouts of lack of access to clean water among the poor, “lack of access to good water supply is the root cause of a lot of health problems faced in rural settlements and communities largely inhabited by poor people. Such community’s record high rate of cholera, diarrhea etc. and as simple as those diseases may sound; they sometimes cost not only lots of money but precious lives”

The Medical Director who coordinates medical missions in rural communities where access to safe drinking water is a challenge, continued “I have handled several health cases which are direct products of lack of access to clean water, we have had to administer between 30 to 40 drips in treating someone who contracted water borne disease due to lack of access to clean water and the cost implication can only be imagined”.

Though the cost of treating water related ailments varies from place to place, Omonaiye urged rural dwellers to ensure good hygiene and safe water intake.  He also laments the absence of pipe borne water in rural communities and even areas inhabited by the so called middle class people.

Sharing his experiences, the Medical Doctor said “there are lots of avoidable illnesses suffered by people in the rural areas just because of lack of access to clean sources of water. For instance during our trip to Olomometa beach, an off shore community near Badagry, Lagos, we found the prevalence of  ailments  Such as  Cholera, diarrhea, cold, and catarrh simply due lack of clean water and cold winds from the sea.

 

Iju-Aga Community

Iju-Aga a  semi urban community located between Lagos and Ogun States on the outskirts of Lagos is perhaps the closest settlement to the popular Iju Water works, which is the biggest water plant in Lagos State.

Ironically, most homes in the community do not take their daily water supply from the plant.

Alhaji Tijani  a community leader and prominent Landlord in the area who has said. “When I built my house here in the 1980s, I bought 11 long pipes to connect water from the main road. Then the pressure of the water was much and it was regular”.  But oday most homes in the community hosting the water works do not take water from the plant and this should not be so.

Some years ago, I cut off the water works and sank my own bore hole“due to lack of maintenance, the pipes over the years got rusted internally and the water passing through them comes out coloured and contaminated, making it unsafe for drinking and domestic

The story is however different in many homes who are not so buoyant to sink private bore holes.  Tomi Olaoluwa is a resident who grew up in the neighbourhood.  Speaking about water supply in the area, Tomi said “early in the morning residents mostly women and children would go out to seek for water from commercial bore holes where they pay before fetching”.

This area may seem to be close to the water works serving major parts of highbrow Lagos area but we are not even familiar with their service as commercial water vendors have found a lucrative business”, she said, pointing to two water selling points in the area.

However, water vendors in the neighbourhood  supply water to homes :“Each jerry cancosts N20”, said Hamza, one of the water vendors in the neighbourhood.

Iju water plant was built in 1901 to produce a capacity of 11,000 m3/d for colonial quarters in Ikoyi/Obalende areas through a normal 28’’ diameter (700mm) iron trunk “A” water pipe. Meanwhile, as the needs increased, another expansion was made in 1943 when the capacity of the water plant was raised to 27,000m3/d as accompanied by the laying of another cast iron trunk “B” pipe of 24’’ (600mm).

Charity, they say begins from home, many have continued to wonder why the community hosting the mega water corporation has not been a direct beneficiary of the service it renders to other far away communities in Lagos.

 

The story is published under the pro poor WASH stories project implemented by the Water and Sanitation Media Network Nigeria, with the support of West Africa WASH Media Network, WaterAid, and Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council.

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