From: Kazeem Biriowo and Bamidele Fashube, Abuja
After an exhaustive day at work, Isaac Jacob (Not real name) boarded a public transport from Wuse district to Karmo axis, getting to his stop, he told the conductor – Dape community. Next thing he heard from other passengers was, “mosquitoe village dey o….”
“This statement followed a thunderous laughter from the over-packed usual long bus. I felt ashamed….”
Apparently, the community he resides is synonymous with unhygienic living conditions, dirt heaps at its entrance and all around the vicinity.
Worse still, the only access road leading to the only government LEA primary school in the community is laced daily with indiscriminate waste dumping, thereby makes the school environment less conducive to learning.
Jacob, a resident narrated his experience at Dape community, AMAC, Abuja.
To a first time visitor, you are welcome by stench and odious air, especially during the wet season. It is coupled with poor access to drinkable water which makes residents vulnerable to water borne diseases.
Globally, it is reported that at least 2 billion people use a drinking water source contaminated with faeces.
Sadly, one could never have imagined scores of rural settlements in the six Local Government Areas (LGAs) in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) are experiencing similar unpleasant living conditions. They are deficient in one basic amenity or another. Its either they drink from the stream – same source from their livestock or they trek kilometres to access drinkable water.
These set of people living at different slums across the city of Abuja lack access to clean water, government built toilets, approved waste collection points to mention but few.
The predominant farming community also relies on a nearby stream to irrigate their farmlands.
AMAC which is considered as the most developed Council area is perhaps, the worst of all in terms of open defecation and this is due to poor access to public toilets. Though, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) such as WaterAid Nigeria, Hope Spring Water Foundation, DevTrainNg among others have increased campaign on WASH activities, greater efforts from similar groups remain inevitable.
Griming statistics, children likely to die of low access to safe drinking water than bullet
Worrying statistics globally and locally also affirmed need to collectively address WASH problems, especially among the marginalized groups. Reports from the World Health Organisation (WHO), for instance says 2.1 billion people still lack access to safe drinking water at home, more than twice as many lack safe sanitation.
In 2017, the WHO, in its drinking water Fact Sheet attributed deaths of 361,000 children under age 5 to water and sanitation risk factors. These, it stated could have been avoided if WASH problem had been fixed.
In Nigeria, 3.6 million people are in dire need of water, sanitation and good hygiene while children in crisis region are likely to die from poor access to water than bullets. According to the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), 1.1 million of this population are Internally Displaced People (IDPs) who abandoned their homes due to insecurity.
“The odds are already stacked against children living through prolonged conflicts – with many unable to reach a safe water source,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “The reality is that there are more children who die from lack of access to safe water than by bullets.”
“In Nigeria, conflict has created huge challenges for people living in the north-east of the country, where violence has affected their ability to access water and sanitation, leading to diseases such as cholera,” said Mohamed Fall, UNICEF Nigeria Representative.
“More than 3.6 million people are in need of water, sanitation and hygiene services – 1.1 million of these are internally displaced (IDPs), having fled their homes due to violence and conflict. Many of them are out-of-reach, in remote areas still impacted by conflict. About 800,000 people are in hard-to-reach areas and 79 per cent of these are children and women,” said Mohamed Fall.
In a statement issued Friday, to commemorate the World Water Day 2019, about 5,365 people were affected by cholera, in the North East with 61 dying in 2017 while 12,643 others were affected. More so, 175 people reportedly died of cholera in 2018.
Incidentally, the scourge of open defecation is perpetuated by most residents who have no access to toilet. But for those close to makeshift public toilets, popularly known as “Gidan wanka” it’s a big relief.
Further investigation by AgroNature Nigeria revealed that open defecation is practised at every single corner in the FCT community. Human faeces are laced around the stream and open fields as well as indiscriminate waste dumping.
This is a regular occurrence in other choice locations such as Mabushi, Central Business District, Wuye, Jabi, Gwarimpa, Area 1 among others.
Unfortunately, despite the makeshift public toilets and commercial borehole facilities, some residents still depend on nearby stream which has been polluted by undiscerning waste dumping and open defecations.
Obviously, the problem of hygiene in the Heart of FCT still remains a great challenge.
As a result, in 2018, during celebration of the World Environment Day, (WED), Dape community caught attention of support groups. The team visited and excavated refuse heaps in the settlement with supports from the youth as well as the traditional ruler.
No doubt indiscriminate waste dumping is a huge problem in the community, thus need for the intervention of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB). Aside, lack of proper drainage system and access roads further made it difficult for even passers-by to access their homes.
Worst is the absence of basic health care facility. Pregnant women and nursing mothers either had to visit the nearest Gwarimpa General Hospital or other closer private clinics which are often unaffordable.
Traditional ruler reacts, seeks support from AEPB
Reacting to need for AEPB station in the district, Head of Dape Community, Esu James Ibrahim Loko, said several attempts were made to persuade the AEPB to capture Dape community as part of their catchment areas to help the community curb indiscriminate dumping and improve waste management but the response was unsatisfactory.
He shared his disappointment when he was told the AEPB service is limited to the Life Camp Junction which is few kilometres away from Dape community.
According to him, the AEPB advised he should ensure the community gets waste bin for the people to dump their dirt but the agency did not guarantee it will regularly visit to empty the bin, when it’s filled. Yet waste collection remains the main objective of the AEPB. Aside, it is mandated to prevent street hawking and keep the FCT clean.
In spite of these functions, Dape is currently crippled with waste management issues and open defecation. A resident, who spoke in condition of anonymity to AgroNature Nigeria said people living in the community needs to have changed mind-set, saying if the environment is clean, everyone will enjoy conducive environment, free of air or water borne diseases.
“The residents would even be free from malaria, so reducing unnecessary medical expenses,” she added that.
A visit to the only private clinic in the community revealed that malaria and typhoid fever is the most treated diseases since it was established.
Mrs Precious, the matron on duty told AgroNature Nigeria there were reported cases of water and airborne diseases. These were treated in the clinic adding that no case of child or mother mortality was recorded yet.
Few years down the lane, the Federal Capital Territory Administration still grapples, yet needs to make greater efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda 2030 set by United Nation in 2015 to make life worth living and make environment sustainable for FCT residents as the world celebrate the world water day 2019.