Fate dealt a heavy blow on Mother of two, Hauwau Abdulhamidu, who lost two children in less than two months to what is suspected to be a water borne disease, which broke out in Damagaza community of Abuja Municipal Area Council, where she resides.
The 30 year old mother, also the third wife of the Mai Unguwa, who painstakingly searched for words to express her grief while speaking with LEADERSHIP, at the weekend could only remember the cliché “the lord giveth, the lord taketh” as she muttered “no no no, nothing happened to my children, God struck my children with the disease and they are now dead.”
“My children were so full of life they were never sick, but now they are gone, “she said.
Recounting the ordeal, the Mai Unguwa of the community, Alhaji Abdulhamidu, who is the father of the deceased children said the disease which had killed about 5 people already was noticed several months ago when some residents were first diagnosed with typhoid but later developed swollen and hard stomach, followed by perforation of the intestine and sometimes death.
He explained that the same fate had befallen his late twin girls as they both took ill when they first presented with fever like symptoms which they believed was just a minor thing.
His words, “We waited for like 2 days thinking it was a minor thing, just fever but after then, we called a friend who works in a chemist, he came down to our house and checked them, then, said it was malaria, and gave them drugs.
According to the Mai Unguwa, doctors in different hospitals where the kids were taken to ran series of tests on them without ascertaining the real cause of the illness.
However, considering the environment, LEADERSHIP noticed the filth; very unkept, gutters every where, oozing smell of central toilets and bathrooms with no adequate provision for septic tanks or suck aways; water flow freely into dirty gutters, even more noticeable are heaps of garbages along the footpaths.
According to The World Health Organisation(WHO), “More than three million children under five die each year from environment-related causes and conditions. This makes the environment one of the most critical contributors to the global toll of more than ten million child deaths annually.”
In further conversation with the Mai Unguwa, he said, it was regrettable that the community is dirty, adding that if he had his way, he will emphasize more on cleaning of the environment.
A non-governmental organisation, Vaccine Network which has been working closely with the community said, that there’s been an improvement in the suburbs environmental sanitation as, residents are still being sensitized on the disadvantages of living in a dirty surrounding.
The NGO’S Director, Mrs Chika Offor said, “in fact, we are at a point where we organise competition and we reward the cleanest house with little motivational gifts just to bring out the zeal in others.”
No Access To Clean Drinking Water
In Damagaza, a community which houses about 3000 residents, there are only two boreholes;donated by the NGO(Vaccine Network) and a Redeemed church close to the area.
However, most of the residents who are either farmers or hunters could not afford to pay a fee of N20 per jerrycan of water from the boreholes as they have quite a number of dependants to care for.
It was also discovered that the extent of poverty in the suburb had forced residents to resort to use of stream water, where rain washes in garbages swooped from everywhere possible.
It has also been difficult operating the boreholes due to lack of electricity which is needed to pump water for the community.
This had brought the idea to charge a fee in order to purchase petrol to power the generator used in pumping the water.
The lack of access to clean water was the reason residents resorted to stream water for drinking and other domestic use.
Use of water from such source has been linked to diseases which has killed many.
A study by the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund(UNICEF) reports that “ every day, over 800 children die from preventable diseases caused by poor water, and a lack of sanitation and hygiene.”
While the World Health Organisation(WHO) noted that 842 000 deaths per year, is attributable to unsafe water supply, sanitation and hygiene and includes 361 000 deaths of children under age five, mostly in developing countries. “
Emphasizing on the need for every one especially children to have access to portable drinking water, the UN organisation explained that, “Without these basic needs, the lives of millions of children are at risk. For children under five, water- and sanitation-related diseases are one of the leading causes of death.”
For millions of people around the globe, water, sanitation and hygiene conditions have improved. Still, in 2015, 663 million people are using unsafe drinking water.
Listing Diarrhoea as a water borne disease it also reports that “Diarrhoea occurs world-wide and causes 4% of all deaths and 5% of health loss to disability. It is most commonly caused by gastrointestinal infections which kill around 2.2 million people globally each year, mostly children in developing countries.”
A Poor Community
While the Millennium Development Goals era seems gone, one can not but keep referring to the fact that many communities like Damagaza have not experienced even one of its 8 goals, little wonder it’s susceptibility to preventable diseases as related to water borne.
In the poor suburb, many of the people are not really educated hence the difficulty to communicate when there is a need.
One of the complaints made by the residents is the fact that they resolved not to visit hospital so quickly since there exist a communication barrier with health workers who do not understand their language.
While the community is not asking for all, it’s is paramount that their lives and safety is protected through provision of basic amenities such as access to clean water, improved sanitation equipments and electricity.