By; ABUBAKAR ABDULLAHI
As the popular saying goes, water is life. It is a well known fact that the significant role played by this important commodity to survival of mankind in this universe is immeasurable. It is one of the few things, if not the only one among the basic necessities of life that one has to use in everyday life. Apparently, availability of water has serious positive impact on the lives of people in different ways. It has therefore become imperative for any responsible government to accord priority to provision of potable drinking water to its populace.
Provision of water itself does not only serve as it is necessary for the commodity to be clean, purified and free from any contamination to make it safe for drinking and other domestic purposes. In Nigeria where the larger percentage of the populace happens to be rural, lack of adequate and potable drinking water remain a major source of concern to both the communities and their respective governments at all levels. Records have in the past shown that lack of this basic commodity had affected socio economic living rural communities in many states of the federation.
The series of outbreak of water borne diseases in the past such as cholera, gastro enteritis, typhoid fever, pneumonia, skin rashes and other related diseases were all connected to water contamination resulted from lack of access to potable water supply.
However reports from various parts of the country have indicated that governments at all levels are rising to the challenges and taking all measures to stem the tide and curb the menace posed by the lack of potable drinking water in their domain. In their effort at curtailing the ugly situation, different approaches have been adopted by these governments, depending on the priority they attach towards solving the myriads of water problems.
Since assumption of office in 2015, the Katsina state administration under the leadership of Governor Aminu Bello Masari had made provision of potable drinking water and improved sanitation and hygiene as one of the priorities and cardinal objectives of the administration. Thanks to the Governor’s experience as a ‘water man’ because of his background as professional in water field. There is no gainsaying the fact that the water sector has continued to receive the maximum attention it deserves from the administration.
In consideration of the fact that a large percentage of the population of the state is rural, provision of potable water to rural communities has recorded a huge success within the short period of the existence of this administration. Many water supply projects have been executed in all nooks and crannies of the state under the state government’s capital project as well as that of collaboration with some international development partners including provision of 1804 hand pumps and 57 solar powered boreholes to communities. In addition, 240 primary schools across the state were also provided with hand pumps and 1440 two compartments of VIP latrines for both males and females constructed which would no doubt improve retention and improvement of learning atmosphere for the pupils.
Similarly, all in its determined effort to improve water supply, the state government embarked on massive borehole rehabilitation exercise under which 1020 hand pumps, as well as 102 solar powered boreholes were rehabilitated and handed over to the benefitting communities. Going by past experiences where several water projects were left neglected without adequate care, which often lead to breakdown of the facilities thereby taking the communities to the former era of water hardship, an effective community participation and system of ownership is introduced into the scheme to ensure sustainability of all the facilities provided. Under this scheme, Katsina State RUWASSA being the implementation Agency through its department of Community Mobilisation and Public Relations ensures that every benefitting community is sensitized and mobilized on full participation in the project. This is done through the formation of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene committee (WASHCOM) to serve as a platform whereby every community would take over operation and maintenance of its facility upon completion and handing over.
To encourage the beneficiaries on this concept, the Agency makes it a duty to conduct training for the beneficiaries on basic repairs of water facilities as well as on secretarial duties and financial record keeping and also purchase and distribute working materials such as repair tools and stationeries to be able to utilize the knowledge in repairing their facilities in the event of breakdown and for their effective management.
No doubt, this concept has contributed in no small measure in the sustainability of the water projects as record has shown that many benefitting communities of these projects have continued to ensure functionality of their water points as they waste no times in effecting their repairs whenever such facilities were faulty. This was done with the money realized from either every household or water user at a stipulated period of time, depending on how the community operates. For instance, many benefitting communities have already set machinery in motion for effective maintenance of their facilities as they have introduced weekly from each household for the upkeep of the boreholes.
Repairs and maintenance is one out of many challenges that the water point beneficiaries have to contend with as there are some challenges which include activities of thieves and vandals who steal some installed materials especially from solar powered borehole. However, considering the hardship some of the beneficiaries have suffered in accessing potable drinking water for a long period of time, the communities seem to be serious now in safeguarding the facility from the act of thieves and vandals. This is through employing the services of watchmen to keep vigil at all times to ensure that such facilities are adequately taken care of.
The Sanitation, Hygiene and Water in Nigeria ‘SHAWN’ project is a project conceived with the aim of attaining effective service delivery towards attainment of hundred percent coverage in the area of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in community. The basic goal of this project is to reduce water related diseases and improve health outcomes through acceleration and sustainable progress in safe excreta disposal, adoption of basic hygiene practices including effective hand washing at critical times and consumption of safe water in rural communities.
The SHAWN project is collaboration between the Federal government of Nigeria and the United Nation’s Children Fund UNICEF with funding from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development DFID. Katsina state happens to be among the selected states in the federation to benefit from the laudable program which started in the year 2010 with three local government areas of Bakori, Kaita and Mai’adua in the first phase.
The project which involves counterpart funding between the development partners, the state and local governments saw the provision of hand pump and motorized boreholes in various communities, as well as construction of VIP latrines in various primary schools across the benefitting local government areas. This is in addition to mobilization and sensitization of the beneficiaries under a concept called Community Led Total Sanitation CLTS under which the communities are guided to spearhead and lead the process by themselves for their own benefit.
The main focus under the concept is sensitizing the communities to realize the dangers associated with improper sanitation and hygiene practices whereby they take decisions to change their negative behavior through avoidance of defecating in the open, construction and effective usage of house hold latrines, as well as observance of personal and environmental hygiene.
The impact recorded by the project in the various benefitting communities under phase one, coupled with the commitment of the state administration in the area of payment of counterpart funding for the effective implementation of the project resulted into allocation of three more local government areas. Sometimes in the year 2012, Dutsinma, Faskari and Sandamu LGAs came on board, making a total of six benefitting LGAs.
As the project continued to be successfully implemented, the benefits at the same time continued to manifest glaringly as hundreds of communities enjoyed water, sanitation and hygiene facilities in various ways. Consequently, the result had shown great impact in terms of increased access to safe water, improved sanitation and hygiene, in addition to the remarkable achievement recorded in school enrolment and retention among primary school pupils.
To further demonstrate the determination of the state in ensuring the sustainability of the SHAWN project for the maximum benefit of rural dwellers in the state, five more local government areas of Batagarawa, Ingawa, Matazu, Musawa and Safana successfully joined the already existing six LGAs into SHAWN II project. The feat further placed Katsina in the far lead among the other five SHAWN benefitting states of Bauchi, Banue, Jigawa, Kaduna and Zamfara states in terms of the number of benefitting LGAs.
Some of the major achievements recorded so far in the eleven benefitting LGAs under SHAWN I and SHAWN II project include several hand pump and motorized boreholes provided to the communities including those in primary schools, thereby providing hundred of thousand communities’ access to clean and safe water across the LGAs.
In addition, several compartments of ventilated improved pit (VIP) latrines were constructed in primary schools to provide the pupils with access to basic sanitation while several hygiene materials including soap, buckets, towels, dustbins and other sanitary wares were provided in the schools. Similarly, in an effort to discourage the communities’ negative attitudes towards sanitation, hundreds of the communities have been triggered on the dangers of open defecation and filthy environment.
As a result of the vigorous sensitization effort embarked upon by the State Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency RUWASSA in conjunction with UNICEF and the local councils, many of the communities, having realized the importance of proper hygiene and sanitation to their health and general living condition, resorted to digging of their latrines in the households and ensuring that members of the households are using them properly. Frequent inspection and monitoring exercise conducted in the communities by various stakeholders implementing the project has shown a remarkable progress in terms of latrine usage, proper cover and provision of hand washing facilities such as water, soap or ash near the household latrines.
Some of the communities had through their established Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Committees (WASHCOMS) improved further by constructing latrines and tippy taps; a new innovation for effective hand washing in different locations for the use by the general public and other visitors to the communities. This was a measure aimed at tackling the menace of open defecation and ensuring totally sanitized environment.
The immense support being received by the SHAWN project from the present state administration under Governor Aminu Bello Masari has further continued to consolidate the gains of the project for the benefit of the teeming rural populace of Katsina State.
For instance, few months into assumption of office, the governor, in spite of the economic challenges faced by the government, immediately approved and released the sum of three hundred and eighty million Naira (380,000,000.00) as part of the state’s counterpart funds for the continued implementation of the SHAWN II project. This great commitment by the governor had resulted in the award of contract for drilling of hundreds of hand pump boreholes in various communities, as well as another hand pumps for some Health centers, while hundreds of compartments of VIP latrines were constructed in primary schools under the project.
In further appreciation of the effort of Katsina state in the implementation of this laudable project, the partners jointly funding the project decided to increase the chances of the state by incorporating more local government areas. No doubt the incorporation of additional nine LGAs by the development partners for Katsina state is a clear testimony to the fact that the effort of all stakeholders towards this important project is paying and acknowledged. Recently, Batsari, Baure, Charanchi, Dandume, Danmusa, Kafur, Mani Rimi and Sabuwa emerged successful to join the existing eleven LGAs to bring the number of benefitting LGAs in the state to twenty (20).
The new LGAs emerged following a rigorous self selection process jointly conducted by state RUWASSA and UNICEF. Furthermore, as a sign of firm commitment towards urgent and effective take off of the project in the newly emerged LGAs; nine operational vehicles were provided to them for smooth conduct of their activities under the project.
On several occasions, Governor Aminu Bello Masari had emphasised that provision of adequate and safe drinking water and improved sanitation and hygiene is part of the cardinal objectives of the present state administration. According to him, attaching priority to this important sector could translate into improving the health status and ensure significant reduction of water, sanitation and hygiene related diseases and mortality rate among the citizens of the state.
While commending the UNICEF and DFID for their various forms of interventions, the governor assured of the administration’s commitment to continue to honor and fulfill all its obligations with the development partners in all sectors that have direct bearing on the lives of the people, adding that the state government is looking forward for more of such partnership. Governor Masari who lauded the achievement so far recorded in the implementation of the SHAWN project especially by the joint effort of RUWASSA leadership and UNICEF, however stressed the need for creation of ownership and maintenance of sanitation facilities especially in rural markets. This is because, observations and experiences have shown that presence of markets is said to be hindering the effort being made in controlling and eradication of open defecation, hence the need for adoption of a platform through which facilities are provided, properly used, maintained and sustained in such places.
This view by the state governor is already receiving the blessing of the SHAWN project as the concept of ‘Sanitation Marketing’ being jointly implemented by DFID/UNICEF and RUWASSA is all out to promote private ownership and address the menace of open defecation especially in areas with big markets. In Mai’adua international border market for instance some entrepreneurs were provided with lands for construction of commercial public latrines. The Agencies jointly provided them with solar motorized boreholes.
This concept has contributed in minimizing the problem of rampant open defecation by people patronizing the market. Another step taken to address the problem of open defecation is the concept of ‘Adashe’ group, under which people form a committee to make financial contribution to enable them to construct latrines in their households. There is also an arrangement with some microfinance institutions to provide low interest loans for people to construct and own latrines in their houses. This arrangement has since saw the construction of many household latrines in Bakori local government area of the state.
The community led total sanitation under the SHAWN project is said to have recorded tremendous success with regard to stoppage of open defecation among several communities in Katsina State. Last year alone, a celebration was conducted in which the state governor presented certificates to hundreds of communities who attained Open Defecation Free (ODF) status across the SHAWN LGAs. Since then, many more communities have attained such status with many aspiring for the position.
Importantly, the benefit has not just stopped on the celebration or issuance of certificates, but the bold steps taken by the communities to stop this negative trend has contributed immensely in reducing sanitation and hygiene related diseases and generally improved the living condition of the rural communities.
It is however worthy of note that all the achievements recorded in this sub sector within a short period of time wouldn’t have been possible without the enabling environment that Governor Aminu Bello Masari’s administration continues to provide to RUWASSA as the implementation Agency. It has never been so good with the Agency in particular and the beneficiaries in general in terms of huge budgetary allocation and timely release of funds for execution of both state project and that of collaboration with the international development partners like the current administration. Added to this is the firm commitment and determination showed by the RUWASSA leadership under Engineer Aminu Dayyabu Safana, members of his management as well as the staff who always ensure delivering of qualitative job for the benefit of the teeming rural communities in the state.
Katsina state RUWASSA under this leadership has continued to ensure synergy among all the stakeholders such as relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies, Local Government Councils, Non Governmental Organizations and the benefitting communities in the execution of its various designed programs.
Now that all relevant authorities have been making frantic effort to bring more progress and development to rural communities under this noble project, the challenge remains on the part of the beneficiaries to ensure sustainability of the project. All hands must be on deck for the communities as the major stakeholders to contribute their own quota in meeting the set objectives particularly by ensuring that they sustain the positive status attained. They should avoid relapsing to their former negative attitudes of negligence or lack of proper care for water points, defecating in the open and all other practices that could hamper their healthy living.
Abubakar Abdullahi wrote this piece from Kwado Area, Katsina and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org