Water Sanitation: CERI carries out community engagement in Kuje, Buruku

Officials of CERI with locals at Kuje

The Community Emergency Response Initiative-(CERI) has been working tirelessly with other stakeholders in the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene-(WASH) Sector over the years towards contributing to the realisation of the National and Global WASH goals of the 2025 and 2030 respectively.

CERI is also concerned and disturbed by the poor and un-friendly attitude of some state governments where water, Sanitation and Hygiene aspect of development seems to have been neglected or are not given the required attention.

What is even more baffling is the very poor attention given to communities that have attained open defecation free status (ODF). Most communities in the ODF LGAs do not have potable water to consolidate their ODF Status which leave one to wonder why we had to go through all the trouble of making them ODF only to leave them in a worst condition than their Pre-ODF or better still, their Open Defecation status.

ODF communities are supposed to see themselves as one that have achieved excellence thereby, doing everything to consolidation their ODF status but they now find themselves in a more dangerous condition than before, where they are supposed to observe and experience the highest level of Hygiene and Sanitation but this cannot be because, most of these communities are without potable water.

This led CERI in partnership with End Water Poverty-(EWP) to embark on community engagement out last year. CERI decided to engage 6 communities in 2021, three-(3) and ODF LGA, Buruku LGA of Benue and another three-(3) Kuje Area Council of the FCT, Abuja.

1. To ascertain if consideration is given to issues of concern related to the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, including but not limited to availability, accessibility, quality and safety, affordability and acceptability of water for drinking and personal/domestic usage and sanitation

2. To assess if water is available in sufficient quantity to fulfil individuals and households requirement for drinking, personal hygiene and other domestic uses, which includes cooking, preparation of food, laundry, and cleaning of which the supply must be reliable and continuous so that individuals can collect water when they require.

3. To ascertain if water services are physically accessible for everyone within or in the immediate vicinity of all spheres of their lives, particularly at home, but also in educational institutions, the workplace, prisons, and public places including establishing the extent of safety on the route to fetch water and to the facility itself which must be safe for all users and the method of extracting water must be usable by all in situations where water is not accessible on the premises.

4. To assess the extent of citizens affordability of water of which the tariffs charged are reasonable and without compromising the exercise of other rights, such as health or food and that there are measures in place whereby the state can make the services available where the people cannot afford water and sanitation for reasons beyond their control also that, water services are not disconnected due to the inability of the citizens to pay.

5. To establish if the Water used by households and individuals for domestic and personal purposes is of sufficient quality to protect their health as well as ascertain that the water is not polluted by any means such as, agriculture, industry and it’s prevented from any form of contamination.

The campaign also provided opportunity to engage with both Local Government and Traditional authorities as well as members of the communities and sensitise and create awareness on Human Right to Water and Sanitation especially now that preparations are being made for 2023 electioneering activities. Mainstreaming WASH into Climate Change adaptation and for the establishment of National Laws towards the recognistion and prioritisation of WASH as Human Right. Conduct Community Engagement for communities to engage political authority on the need to fulfil their water right by knowing the different means of engaging with the authorities.

The engagement provided opportunity to sensitise the community members and intimate them on their right to water, sanitation and Hygiene-(WASH) and how they can engage with the different Stakeholders, government, development partners, Politicians seeking their votes and claim their WASH Rights including how the communities members can engage political parties and people seeking election into Political offices.

CERI had community engagement with these three communities namely, Mbabanka, Anyam and Mbafaki-2 Communities in Buruku Local Government Area of the Benue State. Complaints from the communities during engagement include; absence of portable water and having to depend on water from unreliable sources such as ponds and brooks which dry up during the dry season. Some of the community members (adults) reported that they pass out blood in their urine. One wonders how the ODF status in the LGA would be sustainable and have the health and the well being of the citizens improved if they do not have water for their personal hygiene particularly, washing their hands after using the toilets. One should expect worst situation for women and girls regarding their menstrual health and hygiene management. This explains why we are having cholera which is an indicator for poor governance and under-development.

COMMUNITIES ENGAGED IN KUJE AREA COUNCIL OF THE FCT-ABUJA. Community Emergency Response Initiative-(CERI) had similar visit to 3 communities in Kuje Area of the FCT namely, Gafere, Kuwyizhi and Pasali communities. The water situation here is better as water is available due to their closeness to urban area but the coverage is limited and they are Open Defecation Free Communities. The Area Councils in the FCT did not escape the cholera outbreak as they also had their own share of it. I think we should just spare ourselves the trouble of having to always find ourselves among those in this “WASH-embarrassment” when all we need to do is for our state governments including the FCT administration to just give priority attention to WASH in the different States and Area Councils respectively and seeing it as the Only Right which other Rights depend on and prioritise it and this I know its something every State and the FCT can do which would make us compliant with the UN General Assembly 2010 Resolution 64/292 which explicitly recognised a right to water and sanitation.

6. The rights to water and sanitation are derived from the right to an adequate standard of living as stipulated in Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and other international human rights treaties. The UN has recognised that the rights to water and sanitation are required for the realisation of other human rights, including the right to adequate housing, the right to the highest attainable standard of health, and the right to life.

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