Water is vital to human lives, but access to the resource continues to be a nightmare for many in the rural communities of Ghana.
Though successive governments and non-governmental organisations over the years have and continue to work hard toward access to safe water for all, its availability is nonexistent in many rural communities.
In fact, Goal 6 of the Sustainable Development Goals talks about access to safe water for all in 2030. But achieving this goal seems to be far over as the majority of people in various communities in the Upper East Region continue to struggle for potable water.
Prince Atiabila’s daily hurdle to get clean water for his 80-year-old grandmother and two little siblings is only beginning.
The 9-year-old lives in the Asongi-Kunkua community in the Bolgatanga East District of the Upper East Region and is the only active family member who can walk for miles in search of potable water after being left alone with his grandmother.
Little Atiabila will either have to walk 15 miles for clean water at a nearby community out of the district or risk his and his grandmother’s health and drink from the same water their animals drink.
This is a challenge. The community of over 4000 residents, struggles daily in search of potable water.
Speaking to Little Atiabila, he said his only wish in life was to get a water source that can provide clean water for his family so he will not have to walk for miles to access it.
“I want clean water. The water here looks brownish and yet I will have to fetch it like that for my grandmother and little siblings to drink. Again, it is difficult pumping this borehole every day”, he said.
Streams and rainwater have been the only sources of water the residents depend on during the rainy seasons, but during the dry seasons when the streams usually dry up, and rains have ceased, residents will either have to depend on dams or walk 15 to 20 miles in search of water.
Comfort, a mother of two, said that during the dry seasons, they usually depend on a handmade borehole that was constructed by the community members some years ago for their animals.
According to her, the borehole was constructed 20 years ago and the water there usually comes with some microparticles that could be seen with the naked eye. Additionally, the water has a brown colour.
She said, “colourless as water is supposed to be, but for this water from this handmade borehole looks brownish and often flows along with some micro worms. We are struggling with water here. Within two months if you come here, this borehole will not be flowing again. It is sad to be struggling for water in this time and era. Just look at the highway, imagine you are crossing or a child is, and these cars are always at top speed, anything can happen. And we have witnessed several of those, where a car has knocked someone down. They should come to our aid. It is a pity.”
Also, Abugre Ayinbila a farmer said, “we depend heavily on rainwater or streams, but now that we are out of the rainy season we are deeply worried. We all know the importance of water and we cannot continue to drink from where our animals are drinking. We are suffering. We need the government to do something if it cannot provide us with the mechanised borehole as promised in 2018, it should handpump one for our survival.”
In 2018, the government promised to construct as many mechanised and hand pump boreholes as possible in the district. 7 mechanised and 74 hand pump boreholes were at various levels of construction. Asongi-Kunkua was a beneficiary and received one mechanised borehole. But as we speak, the initiative has been abandoned.
Asampana Aboki Baba, a resident said “we are so sad that the government with a good initiative like this has been abandoned. We never thought it would take us 4 years and counting yet we can not find potable water to drink in our community. It is a pity for us, that we still have to walk miles in search of water. If the government can not work on the mechanised borehole, it should come and work on the hand pump type for us. Why are we not Ghanaians? We are tired of fighting with our animals for water.”
Asongi-Kunkua community with over 4000 residents has only 7 boreholes, two are malfunctioning. The rest only flow in the wet seasons and run empty in the dry seasons.
Festus Akugre Assembly member of the area noted that at the Assembly level, he has spoken about the challenge, yet, there seems not to be a way forward for him.
He added that he has made follow-ups to the Northern Development Authority over the reasons for abandoning the initiative in his electoral area, but he has not received tangible reasons.
“But I will not rest, I will continue to pressure on for the betterment of my people”, he assured.
The teething challenge of potable water has been a big issue in the district. From the bottom to the top, from little Atibila at Asongi-Kunkua community to David Amoah, the District Chief Executive for the area.
But during my short interview with him regarding the issue, he indicated that not only was he aware of the problem but has made conscious efforts to provide solutions to the residents’ predicaments.
He explained that aside from approaching the Northern Development Authority on countless basis, he has also contacted other organisations to come to the aid of the district as the lack of potable water was an issue they faced.
“The issue with NDA and the 74 boreholes and 7 mechanised ones that work has stopped, has to do with funding. I have made follow-ups, but the NDA told me and as well assured me that it will work on it as soon as the outfit receives funding. Aside from that, the district is working seriously to see how we can support communities without water. That, I can assure you”, he added.
Attempts to get a response from the Northern Development Authority regarding its work in the Bolgatanga East District, have not been fruitful. Until that Sustainable Development Goal is achieved, little Atiabila and his grandmother will continue to drink from the same source their animals drink.
This special feature “Sweat for Potable Water” is produced by Moses Apiah, a reporter with A1 Radio. (firstname.lastname@example.org)