Lizzy Achuagu, Chair, Enugu State Water and Sanitation Media Network, Nigeria examines the challenges flooded communities and marginalized groups in accessing safe WASH service in Nigeria.
Flood is a large amount of water covering an area that is usually dry. It could be caused as a result of heavy rainfall or over flowing of a
river. Flooding is a disaster and should be curbed to avoid being inimical to lives.
Flood could cause so many negative things which among them are encroaching the area meant for farmlands. It could also cause erosion which may lead to earth-quake, inability to access good water, and sometimes it may affect land quality. Flooding is an unpleasant situation which has affected the lives of people and natural endowments.
In some of our communities, flooding is one of the natural disasters we face as a challenge.. Flooding as increased the cost of access to safe water as people have no option than to boil it whenever it is needed.
Flooding has reduced the communities to buying kerosene whenever water is to be used. During the rainy seasons most of rivers are overflown.
Some of our rural areas have no purified water owing to flooding and its causes. Without water, there would be unhealthy living, and everywhere around the community would be unpleasant.
Flooding has also affected the source of some of our communities’ ground water. In some of our communities the water there could be good for drinking but due to flooding it cannot be used for drinking water.
It is estimated that ground water flooding affects a few hundred thousand properties in some of our communities. Ground water flooding occurs as a result of water rising up from the underlying rocks or from water flowing from abnormal springs. This tends to occur after much longer period of sustained high rainfall. Higher rainfall means more water will infiltrate into the ground and cause the water table to rise above normal levels.
The precautions that can be taken by individuals to protect against ground water flooding are limited. Ground water flooding is often more difficult to prevent than surface water flooding; it’s not as simple as building flood defense to prevent river water spilling over its banks.
There are some areas where ground water flooding has been dealt with by installing pumps to remove ground water and so lower the water table but these only have a localized effect, and there is still the problem of having somewhere to discharge the water so that the communities will live happily.
However, in the last three weeks, Nigeria has been facing an unprecedented flood disaster resulting in loss of lives and properties running into billions of Naira.
In Anambra State, South East Nigeria heavy flooding has submerged several communities and about eight local governments were affected, but the worse hit is Ogbaru Anyamulum Anam, among others
These displaced persons run into thousands of homes, loss all they had, including farmland, and productivity estimated at billions of Naira.
Speaking with one of the victims Mr. Rapheal Oduobara from Ogbaru local Government Area, said he lost everything he had but thank God for his life and the life of his people.
According to him, there are minimal loss of lives because of the early warning and proactive intervention of the state government.
He said that the state government is assisting the affected communities. Adding that churches, Non Governmental Organisations and spirited individuals are also rendering affected people.
On how the flood affects access to their drinking water, sanitation and hygine. Mr. Oduobara said the flood cover their entire stream and the other sources of water. According to him, “we now rely on pure water donated by good spirited individuals, NGOs and state government and we are not even sure of regaining our source of water when we get back. “
About their personal hygiene he said “you don’t talk of neatness when you are in the jungle, you are in another man’ s land. You will soon ask me, about toilet”, he said.
Mr. Oduobara also lamented that there is no way government can provide latrine under this emergency situation so we go to bush.
In his contribution, a mother of five, Mrs. Florence Okeke said that as refugees they are not expected to be comfortable because their problem is not man made but natural disaster stressing that some of them who stays in school premises go to toilet in a nearby bush.
Whether they wash their hands after going to toilet? She said “no water for that. Pure water is for drinking not for washing of hands.”
Need for Inclusive WASH in Nigeria
One of the world’s poorest groups in the society is disabled people and their inability to access basic services and facilities, such as sanitation and safe water can result in poor health and poverty.
Often, special adaptations are not incorporated into the enabling design of sanitation and water facilities in this country.
For instance, if a community digs a bore hole without considering the disabled groups, they may not have access to that safe drinking water in their own community.
We should not exclude our bothers, sisters and children from having access to WASH because of disability.
As many as 20% of the poorest of the poor are disabled and people with different types of disabilities, experiences different challenges and discrimination in accessing WASH .
This group of people needs a well designed toilets we cannot talk of marginalized groups without mentioning women and children who constitute about 70% of the population , they are often poorer than men. Poor hygiene has a serious impact on women reproductive health and lack of WASH facilities affects women’s dignity, safety privacy and girl’s access to education.
Children especially girls are often burden by WASH task and miss out of school many girls do not go to school when they are menstruating because their WASH needs are not met.
There is also need for the establishment of WASH in schools. The demand creation and provision of safe water and sanitation facilities in schools should be the first step towards a healthy physical learning environment.
In schools, hygienic education should be aimed at promoting practices that would help to prevent water and sanitation related disease. It also leads to healthy behavior in future generation of Adults.
Another group that is being marginalized in the society is the older people. This group is often among the poorest. They are likely to be affected by chronic illness and disability and it is often a barrier for them to access water and sanitation, so there is still need for service providers to remember and cater for them.
However, those living with HIV/AIDS are also being discriminated against by the society for the fact that those living with HIV/AIDS need access to adequate safe water supply to prevent opportunistic infections.
The provision of the water and sanitation services needs to be accelerated urgently together with sustainable operation and maintenance because meaningful hygienic education and use of facilities by all will lead to healthy living.
Therefore, toilets and basic hygienic facilities can scientifically improve the quality of life and survival rates of people suffering from major disease like disability, HIV/AIDS as will as making it easier for those who care for them.
Federal and State Government should apply equity and inclusion in designing water; sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programmers.
Many schools especially in the southern part of Nigeria have poor hygiene conditions or do not have water, sanitation and hand washing facilities in their respective schools.
Children have a right to basic facilities such as school toilets, safe drinking water, clean surroundings and information on hygiene. If these conditions are met children will learn better.
In Enugu State almost all the primary schools have no access to sanitation because without water, sanitation is not complete.
In an interview with primary five pupil schooling at the central school at the Central school Obinagu in Udi LGA of Enugu State Master Nnamdi Ene said they use to hear water , water everywhere but no water drink.
According to Master Ene, “in my school we don’t have tap water or safe drinking water as you said but our teacher use to tell us to bring water while coming to school.”.
He explained that water could be as drinking water or they use it to mix charcoal for cleaning the blackboard.
Master Ene further said that there is pit toilet in the school but after using it, there is no water or soap to wash your hand stressing that if you still have water in your small can which you came to school with you can, wash your hand in school if not it will be at home after school
He said that their teacher thought them to always wash their hands when they go to toilet, after playing but since there is no water to do the washing of hands nobody cares.
Master Ene said that schools in the rural areas suffer more than those in the urban, pointing out that those in the urban school may have water system type of latrine while those in rural have pit toilet because they have not seen water to drink talking of flushing of toilet.
In Abakpa Nike Housing Estate Primary school story is the same, according to Miss Chika Okafor a primary six, student, there is no functional water point in the premise but nearby yards they have well water.
On how the school is coping with sanitation, Miss Okafor explained that during sanitation or cleans up as they use to call it everybody will come including teachers who supervise the exercise, the pupil will sweep the surroundings and gather all the refuse to dump site infront of the school.
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.