Chased out of your home, village and country. These are the cards dealt for 40-year-old Amina. With constant and increasingly deadly attacks on her hometown of Bourusoma, Nigeria, she and her husband had no choice. In July 2019, they rounded up their six children and her niece and fled across the border to the frontier village of Chawagui, Niger.
"We opened our community to our brothers and sister because they were persecuted," declared Tasiou, a native of Chawagui. After this open welcome, the reality of refugee life started to settle in. There was no other source of water other than a traditional well. The only hand-pump equipped borehole was broken down. With over 1,400 refugees flooding into the town, the stress on water supply was mounting, and so was the risk of waterborne disease.
"Sometimes we would find maggots in the water we drew" - Amina
"The well was not clean," Amina recounted, "and animals would often fall inside. Sometimes we would find maggots in the water we drew." She even recalled isolated cases of cholera that thankfully did not spread throughout the village. It was evident that the water supply was critical to the survival of both the refugees and the residents of Chawagui.
World Vision in Niger, in partnership with UKAID, acted swiftly. The needs of incoming refugees settling in border towns were quickly assessed through the Niger Conflict and Displacement Response (NICODIR). Working with residents and refugees in Chawagui, water, sanitation and hygiene were identified as significant deficiencies. The organization got to work, restoring the broken borehole and drilling another to ensure the adequate supply of safe drinking water within a reasonable distance for the whole village.
Educating the displaced persons and residents on the significance of sanitation and hygiene was a priority. Others were further trained as sanitation and hygiene champions in their community, of whom Amina was part.
"I felt tremendous joy and relief when the new well was constructed," Amina reminisced. "I'm going to work to make sure that the women of this community understand that sanitation is a major contributing factor to our health," she continued with steely resolve.
Through the UKAID funded MERF Project, five communities welcoming refugees have received new boreholes. More than 2,150 people have been educated on proper sanitation and hygiene practices, receiving over 1200 hygiene kits and constructing more than 410 latrines, benefitting over 6,800 refugees, most of whom are children.
"I want to thank all the donors and contributors who allowed for the drilling of this well," Amina concluded, "their generosity will not be put to shame."