By Oluwatosin Akingbulu
Kano state, Nigeria, 13th June, 2017 – People in the village of Kuka Bakwai in Takai Local Government area of Kano state left their homes fi ve years ago, not because of confl ict, but because they had no access to clean water. Th ey migrated to neighbouring communities where they could get enough water for themselves and their cattle until a major intervention by UNICEF caused them to return home.
Few years ago, the only water source in Kuka Bakwai, a village with a population of 2300 people in 300 households, was an open hand-dug well. Th e water from the well was polluted and unsafe for drinking. Nevertheless, the villagers drank the water and used it for cooking because there was no alternative water source nearby. Th is led to outbreaks of cholera and diarrhea in the community. ‘
’Th e situation in Kuka Bakwai was terrible. Th e water was unsafe and there was disease everywhere,’’ said 45-year-old Sabo Naira, chairman of the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Committee (WASHCom). ‘’When we had visitors in the village, we were always ashamed to give them the water to drink.’’ At some point, the water from the hand-dug well dried up. It became diffi cult for the villagers to get water to drink and give to their cattle.
Some of the villagers, including 35-year-old Abdulhamid Idris, had to leave their homes for a neighbouring community when conditions became unbearable. ‘’I had to move to Shengel village with my family when the well dried up. I did not want to stay for fear of disease outbreak. My children were still very young,’’ said Abdulhamid. A major breakthrough came for Kuka Bakwai when UNICEF installed a hand pump borehole in the village under the European Union-funded Water Supply and Sanitation Sector Reform Programme Phase 2(WSSSRP II).
With two strokes of the pump, clean water gushed out in abundance for the use of community members. Since 2012, projects under the WSSSRP II have been ongoing in six states: Kano, Jigawa, Yobe, Osun, Anambra and Cross River. Every household in Kuka Bakwai village now has access to clean water for drinking and cooking.
Cases of water-borne diseases are on the decline. Villagers who migrated are also returning home to improved living conditions. ‘’I moved back to Kuka Bakwai in April 2016 when I heard about the intervention by UNICEF,’’ said Abdulhamid. ‘’Th e children now go to school and they are happy with the changes.
I do not plan to return to Shengel anymore.’’ To ensure that the hand pump borehole keeps working effi ciently well, UNICEF-trained community members provide servicing and repair of the pump. Members of the WASHCom in Kuka Bakwai also mobilize the villagers to contribute some money towards maintenance of the hand pump borehole. Th e villagers cooperate with the WASHCom members to ensure that water scarcity remains in the past, and their children would never experience such diffi culty again. Oluwatosin Akingbulu is a communications offi cer with UNICEF Abuja