Ongoing hostilities in the North-East axis of Nigeria which caused the displacement of 1.8 million women, men and children, has been hampering their access to vital resources including water.
In addition to the displaced population, 1.56 million individuals have returned to their communities since August 2015, due to the expanded presence of security forces.
However, the infrastructure in those areas is still severely damaged or destroyed and essential services have yet to be fully restored.
People in Gwoza town, Borno State for example, have been spending several hours a day under the scorching sun searching for water, often in unsafe, hand-dug wells.
The lack of infrastructure leaves no other option as the limited available resources are overstretched by the needs of displaced and returnee populations.
That is beginning to change.
Last week, a United Nations agency, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) completed the rehabilitation of two boreholes in Gwoza and Konduga as part of a project funded by the Republic of Korea.
The initiative aims to revitalise these communities by ensuring that people affected by conflict are returning to safe and dignified living conditions.
“We used to travel for about 12 kilometres to fetch water from an unprotected well before the new borehole was reopened,” said Bakin, one of the beneficiaries.
According to the Humanitarian Response Strategy for Nigeria 2019-2021, an estimated 7.1 million people affected by the conflict are in acute need of protection and life-saving assistance in the region.
On the occasion of the reopening of these water facilities, Lee In-tae, Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to Nigeria, stated that in 2018, Korea donated $ 7.5 million to support women and girls in Borno State while joining multilateral efforts to tackle humanitarian needs via IOM and other agencies.
“The Korean Government will continue to strengthen efforts by providing support to vulnerable people, especially women and girls, continuing capacity-building of government officials, and promoting education and health of Nigerian youth,” he added.
The rehabilitation project has improved the access to water for 13,500 individuals voluntarily returning to their communities of origin. Access to clean water in these areas of return has been achieved through the drilling, installation, maintenance and rehabilitation of boreholes, all of which are powered by solar energy.
“Our aim is to improve access to community infrastructure and basic services and to ensure that these rehabilitation activities are sustainable,” said Dave Bercasio, IOM Nigeria Head of Sub-office. “That is why we are engaging the beneficiaries by forming community-based water, sanitation and hygiene committees,” he added.
These committees, comprising local elders, women, men and youth, will be tasked to conduct regular water quality monitoring activities, provide maintenance of the boreholes and conduct sensitization activities to raise awareness about the rehabilitated facilities and how to use them.
IOM has completed the drilling of an additional borehole in Damboa, as well the rehabilitation of a community market in Konduga and two primary schools in Mandarari and Pulka benefitting approximately 6,000 individuals.
The project approach is guided by the IOM Progressive Resolution of Displacement Situation (PRDS) framework. Starting on 1 November 2018, the project has a duration of seven months with the objective to promote pre-conditions for safe, dignified and voluntary return in identified areas of return.