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UNICEF and water sanitation drive in Akwa Ibom


• Encouraging Hand Washing Culture

A few years ago, 33-year-old Vivian Etim, a resident of Ikot Esop, Nsit Atai Local Council of Akwa Ibom State, had rashes all over her skin. She also suffered regular bouts of thyphoid and diarrhoea.

To maintain a high level of personal hygiene, she had to trek several kilometres to the only stream in the rural community to get water.“Fetching water from the only stream in the village was always a daunting task for us. The water is not so clean, and we have to walk about 30 minutes along a slippery path to get the water,” Vivian told The Guardian.

The poultry farmer laments that she is always without enough clean water to drink, and to giver her birds. All these, however, happened before the installation of pipe-borne water in the community, through the Niger Delta Support Programme, funded by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), in collaboration with European Union (EU), and Akwa Ibom State government.


With potable water in the community, Vivian said: “Now I take my bath twice or three times daily. The rashes are gone and I no longer get sick. I wash my clothes often, I use clean water to cook, and wash my utensils afterwards. In my poultry, I now use enough water to wash my feeders, everyday, and the environment is clean and my birds are healthier than before.”

Like Vivian, other members of the community say their health situation has improved since potable water was made available.Rita Ubong, a 37-year-old mother recalled how difficult it was fetching water in the stream when she was pregnant.

“When I was eight months pregnant, I still had to go to the stream because I have no one to help me fetch water. One day as I was returning from the stream, I lost balance and slipped with the water on my head, but I was lucky nothing happened to me or my baby,” she said.

Village Head of Ikot Esop Community, Chief Nathaniel Akpan, said his people never had access to potable water until the recent intervention. “Aside from our community, other nearby communities now come to fetch water from the tap. We have seen great improvements in our health condition as we now drink and cook with clean water,” he said.

Wife of the village head, Mrs. Sarah Udoh, told The Guardian that before the installation of the Water and Sanitation Hygiene (WASH) facilities, the village witnessed constant cases of diarrhea and sundry medical conditions

“But once you have given us water, you have given us life. Now, we no longer have diarrhea cases. Because we have clean water close to us, we now practice enhanced personal hygiene. The Water and Sanitation Hygiene Committee (WASHCOM) people told us that with a clean laterine and constant hand washing, we can live a healthy life. So we now wash our hands after going to toilet,” she said.

To make it easy for the community to wash hands immediately after using the toilet, the Tippy-Tap, a locally made hand washing tap was introduced by the UNICEF-WASHCOM and is now installed in all households.

Shedding light on the tippy-tap, WASHCOM Chairman, Edinyanga Pius Ukpong, said; “The tippy tap is an improvised hand washing device that comes in handy once we finish using our local latrine. After using the toilet, we don’t have to go into the house, but just move to where it is set up, use our legs to press the tap and water starts running. There’s also soap by the side.

“The tippy tap is made using a small four-litre gallon, rope and nail. The nail is used to open a small hole that the water will be gushing out when pressed. Now all households here have it, and we have seen a lot of improvement in our health. We started since July 29, 2014, with a water bottle type, but now it’s been replaced with a bigger gallon.”

Full of appreciation for the water and sanitation project, chairman of the village council, Pius Ukpong, said; “Because water is now close to us, we practice improved personal hygiene. We now know the benefits of washing our hands after using the toilet. Before now, we depended on water from the stream, and the road is not so good as it becomes slippery and dangerous for old or pregnant women when it rains. So, we thank UNICEF, EU, and the state government for this intervention.”


Another community in Nsit Atai Local Council that has also benefitted from the WASH project Ikot Ukpong.
Speaking on the projects, which have been commissioned for use in the communities, UNICEF Communications Specialist in Nigeria, Geoffrey Njoku, said one of the reasons the projects were initiated and executed is because, “water is key to child and human survival.”

Njoku who spoke during a UNICEF-facilitated WASH media dialogue, in collaboration with the Child’s Rights Bureau of the Federal Ministry of Information, in Uyo, recently, said that government and people must prioritise good hygiene practices and availability of potable water as part of means to guarantee the wellbeing of the people.

According to UNICEF the overall objective of the Niger Delta Support Programme, is to mitigate the conflict in the Niger Delta, by addressing the main causes of the unrest and violence –bad governance (youth) unemployment, and poor delivery of basic services using WASH intervention programmes as entry point.

Facilitators at the event explained that: “The specific objective of the intervention is to contribute to strengthening of social bonding and peace building among communities in the project states, through local capacity building and provision of access to improved sources of safe drinking water and basic sanitation in 10 self-selected local councils in the project states.

“There are five key objectives under the project which are: to upgrade LGA WASH Units to WASH Departments, and to strengthen the capacity of rural water supply and sanitation institutions in the five states to drive and implement sustainable WASH projects; to increase access to safe and sustainable water supply services in the rural communities of the self-selected LGAS, and to increase access to improved sanitation and proper hygiene practice in rural communities and schools.

Others are to institutionalise dialogue among stakeholders, strengthening social bonding and contributing to resolution of conflict situations; and to establish a state-level monitoring and evaluation (M&E) system linked to the National M&E system,” they said.


From the project, UNICEF said a total of 206,954 additional people have gained access to safe water against a target of 543,000.Also, WASH Specialist for UNICEF, Mustapha Niang, said available facts show that 46 million people in the country still engage in open defecation, and that 57 per cent of people in the country have access to good water sources.

He, however, informed the country has to increase its efforts on sanitation 20 times to meet SDG Target Six, just as he reiterated the need for government and well-meaning individuals to build defecation facilities in public places.

Niang Nigerians to have a change of attitude on defecating in public places, saying doing so constitutes a threat to public health.A Port Harcourt, Rivers State-based WASH specialist for UNICEF, Hokoaya Martha, said unlike other states in the region, Bayelsa has a peculiar challenge, that is having access to potable water.According to her, the water level in the state is too high and there are also problems of iron and manganese contamination.

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