The plight of a community in Adamawa State where residents are groaning in pains for lack of water, health care or quality education could be an indication that the country is incapable of achieving its sustainable development goals, Tony Akowe reports.
When Dorcas Solomon decided to visit her village during the last Christmas period, it was with a view to enjoying the serenity of the village life, away from the hustling and bustling of the city. But the sight that confronted her on arriving Kulda, a village in Zah Ward of Hong Local Government Area, left her heartbroken.
Drawn to the sufferings of her people, she decided to draw government’s attention to their plight via a post on the social media.
Solomon wrote: “This is my village called Kulda, just about an hour plus distance from Garkida. I left there two days after the Christmas celebration.
“The village needs good drinking water. The people suffer during the dry season and there is no clinic at all. They have to travel to Garkida for treatment when they fall sick. My people need help. I wish I can carry the burden alone.”
In most communities in the hinterland of the country, access to clean or potable water is virtually impossible, and the story is not any different with Kulda. Located on the boundary between Adamawa and Borno states, the sleepy community is more than four hours drive from Yola, the Adamawa state capital.
While the community is lucky not to have experienced any form of attack or invasion from the deadly Boko Haram sect, the residents are battling with the absence of basic social amenities. The earth road from Kulda to Garkida, the nearest city to it, lonely and bumpy, requiring more than one-hour drive. The nearest city centre to the community is Garkida in Gombi local government.
Although Kulda residents appear to be a happy, lack of basic amenities, especially water, remains a big headache as women and children are usually seen going about with kegs and buckets in search of good water.
The only alternative source of water to the only river in the community is a concrete well that is permanently open, exposing its content to air borne diseases and dirt. The coloured water from the well is far from ideal for human consumption, but they have to make do with it in the absence of any alternative, particularly in the dry season when the river dries up.
Lamenting the situation, Solomon said: “Residents of the community are faced with serious challenges that require urgent attention. They have serious water challenge.
“As you can see, the only river in the community has dried up. When that happens, residents try to make alternative arrangement by digging holes in the ground on the water path in order to ‘excavate’ water. They try to dig through the sand to see if they can get water beneath the ground.
“Of course this can pose serious danger to them during the rainy season when there is water on the canal. The only well in the community is not good enough for drinking. Besides, it cannot cater for all the people in the community and that is a major challenge.
“It also poses a great health challenge to the people because it is always exposed to dirt and disease-causing agents. The colour of the water they get is nothing to write home about, but they do all their house chores with the water they get from there.
“It is not really a good sight. The idea of posting the picture was to see if there is anything that can be done for the people.”
Another resident of the community, who identified himself simply as Haruna, told The Nation through an interpreter that the lack of good drinking water has always been a major problem in the community and appealed to government to come to their aide.
But The Nation investigation revealed that lack of potable water is not the only challenge faced by residents of the community. The community is devoid of any functional health centre or medicine store where the health needs of the people can be attended to.
To meet their health needs, The Nation gathered, the residents would have to travel to Garkida even if it is just to purchase a common drug like paracetamol. The consequence of this is that pregnant women in the community hardly attend antenatal clinics.
One of the youth leaders, who identified himself simply as Marcus, told our correspondent whenever the people needed medical attention, they would travel to Garkida to see a doctor or buy drugs.
“There is no single clinic in this community. We travel to Garkida in Gombi Local Government Area, which is a little over an hour drive, for our health care needs or to buy medicines, because apart from the absence of a clinic, there is no single medicine store, chemist or pharmacy here and no health care professional,” he said.
Asked how their pregnant women are taken care of in the absence of a functional health care centre or drug store, Solomon said: “If any woman falls into labour, she will have to take her to be transported to Garkida. Otherwise, she will be left at the mercy of untrained traditional birth attendants.
“Sometimes, they have to take the woman to Garkida two days before she is due for delivery, thus incurring additional cost. But if labour occurs suddenly, they are taken to the local birth attendants who lack the equipment to attend to the women when there are complications.
“Such women are left to their fate. Some of them die or their children come up with various forms of deformity.
“The local birth attendants sometimes attend to the sick or send them to far away Garkida.” Corroborating Solomon, Marcus said: “When women are in labour, they are taken to Garkida to be delivered of their babies.”
Yet another challenge facing Kulda is lack of a functional school. Some residents who spoke to The Nation said they have to take their children out of the community if they want them to be well educated.
They decried the absence of qualified teachers in the only school that has only three classrooms for primary one to six. They claimed that a primary six pupil in the school cannot pass an exam set for primary two pupils in other schools, as many of them cannot even identify common alphabets or spell their names.
While appealing for good drinking water, the community is also asking the government to give their only school good teachers and provide them with health facilities.
The member representing Gombi/Hong Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Hon. Yusuf Yakub Buba, who expressed surprise at the plight of the people, said he was committed to providing water for the people of his constituency.
While seeking wider participation of stakeholders in the area in the provision of amenities for the people, he said he had sponsored the digging of about 300 boreholes across his constituency, calling on other political actors in the area to contribute their quota.
Media assistant to the lawmaker, Nkem Anyata-Lafia, quoted the lawmaker as saying that he had sunk at least one borehole in each of the 254 polling units in the constituency.
He noted that if the local government area whose primary responsibility it is to provide such basic needs as water, primary health care and rural roads can do half of what he has done, villages like Kulda and the reported lack of water would not exist in any part of the constituency.
While Nigeria claims to be committed to the attainment of the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs), it is evident that Kulda community is far from this dream, especially goals 3, 4 and 6 which deals with quality education, quality health and wellbeing, and clean drinking water.
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