April 5, 2021
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Kaduna State Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency (RUWASSA) has been sinking boreholes, combating Open Defecation and contributing to the health and well-being of rural dwellers. In this interview, the Director General AHMED MUNIR, reveals what his agency is doing to provide boreholes, maintain them and empower communities.

By Zainab Altine Yusuf

Recently, the World Water Day was celebrated. What has RUWASSA been doing to deliver on its mandate of providing water to rural areas?

I would like to look at the entire Water Supply, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) sector as our primary focus which can be categorized into four. The first one is to provide basic drinking water in rural communities. Secondly, to provide a sustainable WASH service delivery to these communities. Thirdly, to ensure that the homes of the members of the communities either have improved latrines or newly constructed ones and fourthly, to ensure that all our public spaces, be they marketplaces, motor parks, schools, PHCs, all have adequate supply of water and basic sanitation facilities.

All in our drive to ensure that we meet our 2030 SDGs and the Open Defecation Free (ODF) target of 2025.Open defecation is a global problem, especially in developing countries.

What in specific terms are you doing to combat the problem and which agency are you collaborating with to achieve the 2025 target of Open Defecation Free (ODF) Kaduna State?

The comprehensive work we are doing is with our development partner UNICEF, and we have worked hand-in-hand with them and have recorded certain milestones. You may be aware that last year, the first local government in Kaduna state to be declared ODF was Jaba local government area. And I would like to announce that in the first quarter of 2021, UNICEF and RUWASSA have been able to certify two other local governments ODF. And those local governments are Giwa and Kaura local government areas; and in the second quarter, we are targeting additional three local governments. All in our drive to beat the target of 2025 and for Kaduna state to be the first in the nation-state to be ODF.

And by the trajectory and efforts we are putting in place, it seems it’s a very achievable target.

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One of your mandates is providing safe and potable water supply to people in rural areas by providing boreholes. Are you concerned about the hurt that this drilling activity is causing to the environment?

Of course, you always have to balance the ecosystem. And that is one of the reasons why in the remote and a bit scanty areas, the hand pump boreholes are what is possible to use. But in more sizeable communities right now, what we usually use are solar motorised powered boreholes. It is drilled in one particular location, but it is reticulated to a distance of 1.5 kilometres.

That ensures that we drill fewer boreholes and, of course, before embarking on any drilling activity, there is a comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment. We’re trying to ensure that our people get potable water and at the same time, the environment is well protected. I can tell you that in 2020 alone, we have been able to do 95 solar motorised boreholes and reticulation of over 300 km.

We have been able to do 605 handpump boreholes across our communities. It is critical that WASH is appropriately delivered in our schools. So, we have provided 56 schools with boreholes and sanitization facilities. We, of course, ensured that it is gender-sensitive for the boys and girls, and we have gone a step further to provide for people living with disability in the toilet facilities that we built. We also provided the same water supply and sanitation facilities at 55 Primary Health Care Centers (PHCs) across the state.

The Malam Nasir El-Rufa’i administration is really laser focused on ensuring that we deliver on our WASH targets.Are communities where these boreholes are being sunk expected to pay for the services the way KADSWAC collects water rates?I will try to explain it to you this way; sustainability is key. So, we have two aspects; to ensure our installations’ sustainability and the economic aspect. Here, we are killing two birds with one stone.

There is what we call the Local Area Mechanics (LAMs) of which we have trained about 271 from the previous year till now; we just finished fresh training and it gladdens my heart to see that some of the best Local Area Mechanics that we have trained are 20% women at the moment. We train them in conjunction with UNICEF and provide them with free tool kits along with the necessary set of skills to ensure that they can repair these boreholes, the handpump ones and the solar-powered ones.The truth is, the facilities have moving parts; there is much friction, wear and tear from pumping the handpump boreholes. Government is always focused on the next community after delivery in a particular community.

So, the idea is to provide jobs for these people because they are not only focusing on repairing the government facilities but also the ones that are privately owned. The idea of Local Area Mechanics gives people a sense of ownership. Community engagement is key; it lets them feel like a part of the success story.There is also what we call the WASHCom; this means in each of the communities that we have provided facilities, there’s a built society.

The society ranges between 15 to 20 people who take care of the facility. If there are any issues, funds are raised within the community. So, it has to be a partnership between the government and the community and let them feel as being a part of the projects.

What of people who sink boreholes in their homes in urban areas, does your mandate cover that kind of activity?

The RUWASSA mandate covers all 22 out of the 23 local governments apart from Kaduna North. When you go to places like Kaduna South or Zaria, as much as you think they’re urban, in the outskirts, they have many villages and rural settings. We are watching the developments that KADSWAC is doing with the Zaria facility and the greater works stretching from there to Kaduna metropolis, we’re trying to find the balance. Most of our concentration is in the rural areas. However, where there are outbreaks of Cholera and Typhoid within the urban areas, we try to intervene as a temporary measure.

Is RUWASSA only building new boreholes or also repairing the several broken down boreholes that previous governments have also sunk?

Most of the boreholes that LAMs repair are boreholes from 20 to 25 years ago. We must look at government as a continuity; in fact, before we target the community to deliver services to, we have what we call Community Data Sheet. It has information such as the rate of typhoid in the area, the number of households, and the population without water. So, what we’re doing is entirely targeted. In areas where there are existing facilities because it’s all captured within the Community Data Sheet, rather than expend resources to go and create a new borehole, we instead go and fix those and then shift resources to other areas that require them.

Currently, between last year and this year, using the WASH Norm Report, which is the National Bureau of Statistics and UNICEF’s fact sheet, access to basic water, sanitation and hygiene is up 12% from 8% in Kaduna state. And the national average is 9%; so we are above the national average. And for access to basic water and sanitation services, we are now 33% from 21%, so we have just made some gains. For access to basic sanitation and hygiene, the national average is 10%; we were at 8%, but now we’re currently at 15%.

Then for access to basic water supply and hygiene services, we’re at 19%, and the national average is 13%. Open Defecation from 10%, this one is a number that you want it to go down, we are at 9%. So, we have gone down and like I told you, we just captured new local governments that are Open Defecation Free; so I’m sure we’re actually currently lower than this at the moment and believe it or not the national average is at 22% and for access to basic sanitation services we’re up 55%.

So, you can see the improvement; these are the numbers. Last year alone, in 2020, RUWASSA has delivered 5,910 new water points. We have a new storage capacity of 1,417,000 litres. Like I said earlier, we have done over 300 kilometres now of reticulation across the State.

Is it correct to refer to RUWASSA as a cross-cutting agency, straddling the health and education sectors?

Well, look, it’s no coincidence when they say – water is life. In terms of health and nutrition, looking at reported cases of underweight children under the age of five has dropped from 52.1% in 2015 to 34% in 2019.

The basic education completion rate had increased from 39.4% in 2015 to 76.5% in 2020; these are all data from our development partner, the UNICEF. The under-five mortality rate had reduced from 185 per 1000 live births in 2013 to 82 per 1000 live births in May 2020.One of the key items that has helped us in our achievements is integrating technology with the WASH sector. To set up such a programme application and its structure, it will let’s say, cost a lot of money. But we here believe in adding value to government and our communities.

So, with a couple of geeks, we came together and developed an application for monitoring all our ongoing projects and monitoring their functionality in real-time. We have provided a situation where community members can report issues with the boreholes in their communities with any phone, not just a smartphone.

You can either call or text the regular way, and within 48 hours, through the LAMs that we have trained, we go there and deliver service to ensure that the particular handpump borehole is put in order.We are creating an ecosystem from the initial community engagement to the construction of the boreholes to the training of the LAMs to the sustainability, to the point where if you like call it a WASH Uber, if you like call it a WASH Amazon or a WASH eBay. Once the LAMs detect a fault or malfunction, we look for the nearest supplier with the best possible price, using the App. The supplier then delivers it to the LAMs on-site, and they fix the facility that requires management.

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