Relief, Jubilation as EU, UNICEF Rescue Akwa Ibom Communities from Water Challenge
Posted: 31/Aug/2017

The people of Ikot Esop and Ikot Ukpong communities in Nsit Atai Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, are full of gratitude to the European Union (EU) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), for the Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) projects carried out in their communities to end many years of water scarcity and its attendant consequences in the area. 

Rolling out drums to celebrate the new lease of life offered them by both world bodies – in collaboration with the state government, the people, especially the women, pointed out that their sufferings were over, as they now have more time to themselves and families. 

Before the provision of potable drinking water to these communities by EU and UNICEF, the people said they had no access to safe drinking water. The only source of their water supply was from a small river in the area which had no access road. Trekking to the river, the residents told our correspondent, takes over 20 minutes, while school children were the worst hit as they were constantly faced with lateness to school as a result of delays they face in fetching water from the river. 

For the women, household chores and food preparation became a herculean task as a result of water scarcity. Worse still, many of the women were exposed to risk of violence and physical attack by wild animals, including snakes. In their commendation to EU and UNICEF for the water project, the women said they no longer spend the whole day fetching water from the river. “Also, our children have stopped going to school late because they no longer go to the river to fetch water before going to school. We are very happy for this project, We thank UNICEF and we thank the EU.” 

The potable water supply was among the various interventions provided for these communities by UNICEF under its WASH programme, aimed at improving access to water, sanitation and hygiene in Nigeria – especially in the rural areas. It is also part of the rural component of the Niger Delta Support Project (NDSP) which seeks to mitigate the conflict in the Niger Delta by addressing the main causes of the unrest and violence, unemployment and poor delivery of basic services through the WASH intervention programmes as entry point. 

Wife of the Village Head, Mrs. Sarah Akpan Nathaniel, who could not hide her joy, told our correspondent that now water is available within easy reach, cooking was no longer a difficult task for her. Before now, she recalled, going to the river alone would not only take her time, but would drained the energy she would have used to prepare food for her family. “Everything about the kitchen is water,” she said with feeling, “And everything about bathing and washing is also water so, we are happy for the WASH programme. 

The benefit of this safe water supply is so great because there is nobody in this village that has not benefited from it. It has made life easier for everybody, particularly the older women and men who do not have anybody to go down to the river to fetch water for them.” 

A mother of six among the jubilating women, Mrs. Ibiok Nelson, said the project has reduced the pain of her children and conflict among them occasioned by water scarcity. “They always quarreled among themselves over who will go to the river to fetch water. But since UNICEF and EU made this water available to us, my children no longer quarrel. 

And they no longer go to school late like before,” she said gratefully. The story of Mrs. Eno John was the same also; she urged the donors to spread the project to their neighbouring communities. According to data from UNICEF, over 57 million Nigerians still fetch and drink water from rivers, lakes, ponds, streams and irrigation canals. 

In his welcome address to journalists and UNICEF officials at his palace, village head of Ikot-Esop, Chief Akpan Nathaniel expressed his profound gratitude to UNICEF, “Because we had never had any safe water supply since the existence of this community.” 

Speaking at a media parley on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in Uyo recently at a programme organised by UNICEF in partnership with the Child Right Information Bureau (CRIB) of the Ministry of Information, UNICEF WASH specialist, Martha Hokonya, called for more investment in water supply, noting that availability of safe drinking water contributes to increased health status. 

Martha further stressed that poor water supply, sanitation and hygiene causes more than half of global diarrheal diseases, which remains the second leading cause of morbidity and mortality among children under the age of five. In his opening remarks, UNICEF Communications Specialist in Nigeria, Mr. Geoffrey Njoku, pointed out that water is critical to children and human survival and therefore, must be accorded a priority.

By: Angela Onwuzoo

The Daily Time News