EU, UNICEF Rescue
After several years of living under the burden of diarrhea, cholera among other water borne diseases, respite has come the way of the people of Ikot Ukpong and Ikot-Esop communities in Nsit Atai Local Government Area of Akwa-Ibom State.
The relief came from the European Union (EU) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) following its implementation of the Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) projects in the state.
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.
The residents told our correspondent that trekking to the river, which is two miles away, did not only make school children go late to school, household chores and food preparation became a herculean task for women as a result of water scarcity.
Both children and women were vulnerable to violence and physical attack by wild animals, including snakes.
The two communities are among others in the various LGAs of the state now enjoying the new lease of life from the two world bodies – in collaboration with the state government.
Community members, especially the women pointed out that their travails with water borne diseases were over, as they now have embraced personal hygiene.
“With the availability of safe drinking water and the introduction of the tippy tap for washing of hands after using the toilet to ensure proper sanitation, incidence of water borne disease has now reduced.”
Edinyanga Pius Ukpong, Washcom Chairman, commended UNICEF and EU for introducing them to a new hand washing technology.
Ukpong told our correspondent: “Washcom took us through hand washing facility training so that when people finish using the toilet they can wash their hands before going to their houses.
“So, we use a rope and stick to construct the tippy tap, we don’t use our hands to fetch the water. When one finishes using the toilet, the person uses his legs to press the stick that has been tied to the rope, then this will bring water for washing one’s hands and we have soap there which can be used to wash hands thoroughly before returning to the house.”
The Washcom Chairman further explained, “The tippy tap is distributed in the entire household in the community. The village council bought it, I teach people how to use it but, I first demonstrate to them before I teach them.
“When I go to their houses, I show them how to construct it, then I will loosen it and give the person to construct on his own, then the person will do it so they can know how to use it.
On if children will not spoil the tippy tap if they are allowed to use it, he said; “The children use potty, after they have gone to toilet, their parents will empty it in the toilet and wash their hands on the tippy tap.”
Mrs. Sarah Akpan Nathaniel, Wife of the village Head, 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.
“With the tippy tap, we have embraced hand washing after using the toilet. The hand washing has helped; we no longer contract sickness unlike before. We learnt that most sicknesses are contacted in the toilet.”
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.
The tippy tap is a hands free way to wash your hands that is especially appropriate for rural areas where there is no running water. It is operated by a foot lever and thus reduces the chance for bacteria transmission as the user touches only the soap.
It uses only 40 millilitres of water to wash your hands versus 500 millilitres using a mug. Additionally, the used “waste” water can go to plants or back into the water table.
While the tippy tap is a great technology, it is just that – a technology. It is important to recognise that there is a difference between great technology and adoption of the technology. However, it is a great tool that can help kick start the conversation about hand washing with soap and help increase this behaviour. And it does so in a fun and easy manner that is especially appealing to children.