In the Lake Chad region, 1 in 3 people do not have access to safe drinking water. The crisis in the Lake Chad region has caused a massive displacement, with 1.3 million uprooted children who face a complex humanitarian situation.
A new CERF-sponsored project aimed at responding to sanitation needs in communities has brought hope for some of the youth touched by violence while tackling protection and economic empowerment in an innovative way. 100 young people are now learning how to build 1,500 bio-sand filters that will benefit 11,000 community members. The group is also learning how to fix water points, make soap and build latrines in order to improve the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) indicators in this region.
Among the trainees, there are four children abducted by Boko Haram who managed to escape. They are now starting a new life, like Amin Sani*, 17. “Overnight, my brother in law disappeared, joined Boko Haram and started harassing me. He was calling me on the phone all the time ordering me to join Boko Haram and threatening me. He told me that I would make money, that my mother was a sinner, and that I should join him in the fight, “remembers Amin.
“I was afraid that they would come to grab me. I took my stuff and left to my uncle’s place in Niger. On the way, I found some Boko Haram fighters. They detained me in an unknown forest and threatened me. From the first day, I was thinking of how I could escape. It took me 18 months, but I made it safe to the Chadian border,” he remembers.
UNICEF took care of Amin once released by the authorities. Like other 500 children who managed to escape from Boko Haram, he was taken to a transition center before being reunited with his family after a period of transition.
“During my time at the transition centre, I did a training in water pumps repair. When the water point in my village was broken, I helped the technician to fix it and made some money. Now I am learning how to make water filters and I am very proud to install these filters in the communities,” explains proudly Amin. “I have been sick because of dirty water so many times. If people drink clean water it will help a lot. I would like to work in the water sector, fixing water pumps, and build filters myself, even better ones,” he concludes smiling.
With the improvement of the security situation in some of the islands of the Lake Chad, displaced populations are starting to come back. The quality of the water in these islands is very low and over 80% of the population practice open defecation. Water-borne diseases are widespread, putting these areas at high risk of cholera epidemics.
On one hand, this training will help Amin and other trainees to hope for a brighter future. On the other hand, bio-sand filters will help cutting the number of diarrhea cases in half by eliminating 90% of the microbes. In Chad, diarrhea is one of the leading cause of death among children.
Providing clean water is therefore critical in reducing child mortality. The new CERF-sponsored project aims to respond to the immediate needs of the population in terms of access to clean water and promotion of good hygiene practices.
It also integrates protection through WASH activities by providing opportunities to youth abducted by Boko Haram with skills development in order to support them with income generation revenue activities. The main objective is to develop confidence and self-esteem among these young people affected by the Boko Haram conflict and support WASH sector locally.
*Name was changed