No water, no life, ’’ so says a popular slogan.
The maxim aptly underscores the importance of water to human existence, as human beings, and even animals, cannot survive without water.
Observers note that the importance of water notwithstanding, several communities in Plateau State have yet to have good, reliable sources of water for drinking and other uses.
They say that the situation appears dismal, as many residents of these communities often trek long distances, particularly during dry seasons, in search of water which, in most cases, is not good enough for human consumption.
This is because many people have contracted different water borne-diseases, while some people even died as a result of these diseases, they add.
Some of the waterborne diseases that are prevalent in the communities include typhoid fever, cholera, diarrhea, hookworm infection and Hepatitis A.
The Chairman of Badni Community Development Association in Mangu Local Government Area of Plateau, Mr. Markus Bako said that many residents of Badni community had been afflicted with different waterborne diseases due to the lack of potable water.
“Many people died as a result of waterborne infections,’’ he said.
Bako said that the community’s main sources of water were streams and hand-dug wells, adding that even though the water from these sources was not always clean, the people had no other option than to drink it.
Mrs. Victoria Tali, a nurse in a primary health centre at Wuseli, Pankshin local government area, appealed to the government to initiate water supply programmes for rural communities so as to curb the rising incidence of water-related diseases.
“More than half of the patients that come to the clinic suffer mostly from waterborne ailments,’’ she said.
Tali noted that some residents of Wuseli often travelled to far places like Pankshin town, several kilometres away, in search of clean water.
Mr. Samson Iliya, a nurse working with Bukata Clinic, a private hospital in Konnet community in Bokkos local government area, said that the clinic had recorded many cases of waterborne diseases.
Iliya also urged the state government to provide the community with clean, potable water so as to check the incidence of waterborne diseases in the area.
One of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of the United Nations (UN) gives priority attention to the provision of potable water to the people.
To be specific, Target 7C of MDG 7 aims to halve the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015.
As part of efforts to achieve this goal, Mr. Peter Gai, the Coordinator, Project Support Unit (PSU) of the MDGs Office in Plateau, said that the PSU had sunk 566 boreholes in rural communities across the state.
Gai said that the boreholes, which were either hand-pumped or motorised, were provided under the track projects of the federal, state and local governments, which were executed by the PSU.
He said that the boreholes were sited in communities that were in dire need of potable water supply. “These boreholes are in various rural communities, cutting across the 17 local governments of the state.
“Our choice of benefitting communities is purely based on the outcome of a needs’ assessment survey conducted by our office.
“For instance, some residents of certain communities do trek several kilometres in search of water, and in other communities, the sources of water are usually not healthy for human consumption,’’ he says.
Gai said that in spite of the water projects of the PSU, some rural communities still required more boreholes so as to curtail the high rate of water-borne diseases.
He, however, reiterated the determination of the MDGs office to tackle the water supply challenges facing rural communities in Plateau, as part of efforts to deal with the rising menace of waterborne diseases in the areas.
“As part of efforts to meet up with the targets of the MDGs in relation to environmental sanitation and water supply to the people, we want to make sure that the incidence of cholera is drastically reduced in the state.
“We have situations where people go to streams and rivers to fetch water to drink; and the water could be very hazardous to their health.
“We have intervened by siting water projects in areas which we considered to be in dire need of such facilities,’’ he says.
However, Gai noted that the major challenge facing the drilling of boreholes in most of the areas was the rocky nature of the terrain.
He said that while it was difficult to access water in some areas, the water yield in other areas was somewhat low.
The coordinator conceded that the PSU faced some serious challenges in Kabong, Jos-North local government area, in efforts to provide potable water for the residents.
He assured the people that the MDGs Office would do everything possible within its mandate to improve the water yield and drill more boreholes in the area if necessary.
Gai stressed that the MDGs Office would look into the requests made by some communities for more boreholes. He said that decisions on the request would be strictly based on available resources and approvals from the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on MDGs.
He, nonetheless, commended the Plateau State Government for its genuine commitment to efforts aimed at alleviating the people’s sufferings.
“The success we have so far attained wouldn’t have been possible without the consistent and prompt release of counterpart funds by the state government,’’ he adds.
Gai said that the MDGs Office would sign an agreement with the benefiting communities and local governments to ensure the protection of the facilities.
Meanwhile, some benefitting communities have been lauding the MDGs Office for the water projects.
For instance, the people of Gagdi community in Kanam Local Government Area have commended the MDGs Office for providing them a solar-powered borehole.
The people, who danced round the town to demonstrate their appreciation for the project, expressed the hope that the facility would aid efforts to check the incidence of waterborne diseases in their neighbourhood.
“This borehole has reduced the cases of typhoid in our community; we are, indeed, happy over it,’’ the President of Gagdi Youth Movement, Mr. Nuhu Sanusi, told visiting MDGs officials.
“Before the borehole was sunk, we used to have several cases of typhoid because the stream, which was our only source of water, is not clean. We used to share the stream with animals, especially goats, sheep and cows. But since we got the borehole, the situation is different.
“We are eternally grateful for the borehole and we appeal to the government to sink more boreholes in Gagdi because the community is quite large; one borehole cannot serve all the residents,’’ he said.
Sanusi said that youths of the community were currently taking turns to guard the borehole on a 24-hour basis.
“We also tax ourselves to raise money to replace any faulty component of the borehole,’’ he added.
In Karamin Dengi, another benefitting community in Kanam Local Government Area, Mr. Ibrahim Sale, a community leader, thanked the government for coming to their aid.
“We used to travel long distances to fetch water, which is usually not clean, but with the borehole, we now have a good and reliable source of drinking water.
“This development has reduced the cases of water-borne diseases in our community. We thank the government for this project but we are also asking for more projects to further reduce our suffering,’’ Sale said.
The Information and Communication Officer of the PSU of the MDGs office, Mr. Chuwang Pwajok, however, advised the benefiting communities to take good care of the boreholes.
“Providing water facilities is one thing, ensuring their sustenance is another thing. So, I urge all of you to jealously guard the boreholes if you want to use them for a very long time,’’ he added.
Pwajok said that the water projects were owned by the communities, adding that the PSU would not be responsible for their maintenance.
He bemoaned a situation where a motorised borehole would break down because of a nut or bolt that cost only N200, urging benefiting communities to always assume responsibility and repair the faulty parts of their boreholes.
All the same, Pwajok appealed to the people to always strive to contact their local government authorities for assistance if any situation was obviously beyond them. (Source: NAN)