The Kuchingoro camp sheltering Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) at the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja is a huge camp. However, well-meaning Nigerians through various Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) have been visible with various projects including Water and Sanitation facilities. In this report facilitated by Christian media organisation, the Journalists For Christ (JFC) International Outreach, sponsored by the World Association For Christian Communication, (WACC), Canada and Brot Fur die Welt, IMMANUEL O. ADEYOMOYE writes about the Kuchingoro camp where he visited to assess water and sanitation health facilities. He observes that there are eight toilets out of which only one is functioning. He also observes that the issue is far from lack of facilities but poor maintenance culture among the IDP end users which may someday discourage caregivers, he writes.
Cleanliness, they say is next to godliness and if that is the actual case, then the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) being sheltered in the Kichingoro camp located in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja may be far from godliness.
However, this may not be a problem they have caused but what their situation turned out to be.
The IDPs, majorly from the North Eastern Nigeria, the epicenter of the Boko Haram insurgency did not offend God more than any other Nigerians living in relatively safe areas but the insurgency has made them lose their homes and means of livelihood only to be cramped at Kuchingoro.
Water and sanitation health are the major needs at Kuchingoro camp which the authorities may have to do something swift about to forestall more problems.
In addition to the saying that cleanliness is next to godliness, it is also said that water is life, these mean that, water and sanitation health are unavoidable twin necessary in avoiding more evils as they are essential to life and living. A people void of these two basic necessities will be prone to sicknesses and diseases only with time…and death may be the final result.
It was the Afro Beat King, Fela Anikulapo Kuti that sang in one of his ever green hits that, ‘water no get enemy’, meaning water has no enemy. Little did the ‘Abami Eda’ know that the term IDP would someday be a normal word in Nigeria’s lexicon which group of people would be faced with shortage of water at the Kuchingoro camp.
Now it is obvious that water at the Kuchingoro camp has no enemy as the liquid is now the gold everyone desires and deserves to keep hope alive.
The journey to the new Kuchigoro IDP camp was a usual traffic free one. The Uber driver didn’t know the location but thanks to the GPS app for prompt direction. We got to the camp on time to see things for ourselves. The situation at the place housing scores of displaced persons is beyond comprehension, saying it is appalling is an understatement.
The camp which is situated on a private plot of land located within highbrow estates off the Games Village is dotted with shanties built out of wood and canvas. Men and women were seen milling around the camp obviously with no means of livelihood.
School children were seen playing outside the makeshift school building made of wood and roofing sheets. One would wonder how they survive during the heat season. Life for the IDPs is at a standstill having left all they labored for behind in the North Eastern Nigeria where most of the residents majority of who are farmers and petty traders come from.
What may be called ‘common’ sanitation is nauseating at the camp. The stench is unbearable.
There are eight toilets on the camp most of which are pit latrines with no water to use. Only one of all the eight is still functional which is built decently with hollow blocks. There is no water to flush the toilet after use; a refuse dump sits comfortably around the toilet facility.
With a peep inside the facility, one can only be sorry for people who once had proper sanitation before the insurgency sacked scores of their communities, mere peeping into the facility is an eye sore not to be desired.
Hannatu lives at the Kuchingoro camp and she said there was shortage of water for the toilet facilities.
“Most people who use the toilet don’t bring water to flush while some use paper to clean up and force it down the water closet,” she said, pointing to the ugly sight.
Continuing, she said, “Water is a big challenge here at the camp, there are three boreholes with water tank which were provided by NGOs and other faith-based institutions. All these boreholes aren’t working again because we the IDPs cannot maintain the generators neither could we fuel them,” she lamented.
The major source of water at the Kuchingoro camp is the one provided by another NGO running a school close to the camp. “We pay N10 per gallon of 30 litres” an IDP said.
Miss Patience James from Borno State who lost her dad in the insurgency also lives at the camp. According to her, “The water situation in the camp is a great challenge. We pay so much to get water,” she said.
Another young woman, Mary Zakariah also from Borno State who stays with her uncle because her parents died in the insurgence also lamented the shortage of water at the camp.
“It is so terrible having to look for water here at Kuchingoro. We didn’t have this problem back home but what happened has brought us here and we are now in great need of water,” she said.
The women leader at the camp, Mrs. Ladi Mathias, who spoke through an interpreter also revealed that, “Though toilet facilities are provided but most IDPs don’t take care of the facilities.”
Mathias however showed some of the pit latrines that have been closed up because of lack of maintenance by the IDPs.
“Some of the toilets have become stores for firewood which they sell to make a living because the toilets are no longer functional, some of the people go inside the bush to defecate even in the middle of the night which is unsafe,” she said.
Worried about the hygiene at the camp, the Women leader said, “Most of the people here are lackadaisical about hygiene, hence they are not taking care of the toilet facilities provided.
“Truth be told, NGOs and faith-based organisations have provided water and sanitation for these people but their attitude towards maintenance has hampered the adequate use of the facilities,” she said.
If it is true that water, according to Fela Anikulapo has no enemy, IDPs at the Kuchingoro camp who have refused to properly care for water and sanitation facilities provided by good Samaritans may have constituted themselves as enemies of water and they may not win the battle against this universal liquid.
However, the various NGOs and government agencies in charge of the camp must as a matter of urgency increase sensitisation efforts in order to counsel the IDPs on the need to maintain facilities provided to make them comfortable pending their return home.
IDPs should be made to be responsible for the facilities provided in the camps. Maintainance structure should be put in place by the service providers and such provided facilities should be well monitored.
If this is not done, chances are that there may be total breakdown of facilities especially where water and sanitation are concerned and the ripples effects may be grievous to even include diseases and even death.