Dutse Alhaji in Abuja: Water so Close, Yet Far!


BY: Gina Otokpa

After 27 years, Dutse-Alhaji Primary Health Care Centre finally gets disinfected safe drinking water which by extension, would serve the multitude of residents in the community. REGINA OTOKPA was at the commissioning of the solar powered electricity system under the PPP arrangement.

Dutse-Alhaji, a town under Bwari Area Council in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), is one popular town bordered on the eastern right by Dawaki, on the north by Gwarimpa, on the left by Kubwa and separated by the highway that leads to Bwari town where the popular Usman Dam which powers the city centre with potable water is situated. Ironically, there is no presence of pipe borne water, good roads, good waste management system and stable power supply.

The densely populated area is full of old buildings built haphazardly without adequate space for proper ventilation, indiscriminate waste disposals and constantly bustling with activities from residents including its original inhabitants made up of the Gbagyi, Koro and Gwandara people, as well as people from across other tribes in the country, who choose to settle in the undeveloped area due to the low cost of accommodation and general livelihood.

According to one of the residents, Mrs Claudia Agan, who runs a tailoring shop, power supply and potable water has been a major challenge since she moved into the area over seven years ago, giving rise to constant exposure to generator fumes, and spending heavily on the purchase of fuel to run generator sets and purchase of water from water vendors popularly known as ‘Mai Ruwa’.

“Dutse is a cheap place to live but it is not cheap because we spend a lot of money on basic amenities and even on our health. In this place we are not enjoying the dividends of democracy at all, no constant light, no water, no space to breathe well because of air pollution, bad road everywhere even for those on foot talk more of cars or bikes.

“Its not all parts of Dutse-Alhaji that enjoys constant light and that is because our transformer is and has always been bad, it needs to be changed. To run my shop I have to buy fuel almost everyday. Also, we usually buy water; if buying directly from the borehole its N5 per Jerry can but if its from mai ruwa its N15 per jerry can.

“Another big problem that we are having not only in Dutse Alhaji but in the whole Dutse area are the roads and erosion has worsened them, we don’t have drainages. Every election year you see politicians coming to make promises but once they get into power, they erase Dutse from the map of Abuja. Its not fair at all, not everybody can live in the likes of Maitama, Wuse or even Kubwa or Gwarimpa,” she lamented.

Describing Dutse-Alhaji as a slum, Kayode Olaroye told INSIDE ABUJA that the poor sanitation habits of the residents and lack of basic amenities could lead to intermittent outbreak of diseases such as diarrhea, cholera, typhoid, malaria if nothing was done speedily to improve the state of the area.

Like every other major area in the FCT, Dutse-Alhaji has a Primary Health Care (PHC) centre which started as a community health post in 1992, specifically designed to deliver basic health care as closer as possible to the people at an affordable rate, thereby addressing the challenges of distance and exorbitant fees customarily charged at private hospitals before accessing health services.

INSIDE ABUJA checks revealed that besides the about five borehole private business ventures surrounding the Dutse-Alhaji PHC centre, there are so many others. Water vendors of course push their carts loaded with cans of water and sell to residents who cannot access the boreholes directly for reasons best known to them, at a fee slightly higher but how safe is the water for consumption? Besides the boreholes not being treated, the cans used by the water vendors are never washed or properly maintained, posing grave danger to the lives of those who consume them. Although some residents argued that they buy bagged water usually referred to as pure water, most of these water are from questionable sources and are not safe for drinking.

Only recently, the Dutse-Alhaji PHC was confronted with no fewer than 16 cases of cholera which according to the officer in charge, Raila Bello, was quickly contained by the Bwari area council.

According to her, water borne diseases were seasonal and breaks out during the dry season and at the beginning of the rainy season. Laying emphasis on the area, she explained that “this is the period when water has dried up, people scout for water here and there which ever water they see they drink.

“Last two weeks, we had spotted cases of cholera we had about 16 cases which was quickly addressed by the department of health Bwari area council with the commitment of the chairman, Musa Dikko who quickly swung into action. They sent us drugs and necessary logistics to contain it, that was what helped the situation.

“For typhoid infection it is very rampant, we can not quantify how often we see them but here, most of our clients and patients coming here inculcate the habit of hand washing because proper hand washing can help to an extent as well as good water,” she said.

Moved by the plight of the people, the ministry of health, the FCT administration and a private company PV water international, sealed a Public Private Partnership and started a pilot project on solar powered electricity system about a year ago, to provide disinfected safe potable water to Dutse-Alhaji residents at an affordable fee.

Speaking at the commissioning, the Minister of State for Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, disclosed that the water project designed and financed by PV Water intl, would on a daily basis, supply up to 20,000 liters of clean and disinfected drinking water, and also deliver electricity for battery charging and electrical appliances

According to him, a controlled quantity of chlorine concentration would be generated into the water pumped from the ground by the submersible borehole powered by the 5KWae solar voltage system, to kill the bacteria in the water without affecting the health conditions of consumers over a longer period of time.

Ehanire who was represented by the the Director, Public Private Partnership Unit of the ministry, Dr. Omobolanle Olowu, stressed that the project was a good step in the right direction to complement the efforts of the federal government through the ministry in revitalising PHC centres.

“This installation provides solar – generated electricity and treated water which is safe for drinking, the provision of electricity and clean water are essential to service provision in any health care centre (PHC), and integral to diseases prevention and health promotion.

“This project is a good example of private sector collaboration with Government in a public private partnership (PPP) arrangement where they have undertaken this installation at no cost to Federal Government and will recover their investment over time,’’ he said.

The FCT Minister, Muhammad Bello, who maintained that the PHC was one of the busiest in the community, pledged an extension of the project to at least six PHCs in other area councils, including Kuje, and Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC), in order to reduce the prevalence rate of water borne diseases in the FCT.

Represented by the Secretary, Health and Human Services, FCTA, Adamu Bappah, he urged the residents to patronise the affordable project which though presently managed by PV water Ltd, would be handed over for community ownership and management when the time was ripe.

“These services will be accessed with a minimum cost to maintain and sustain the services. Such project will only be meaningful if the community embraces and utilise the services being provided, I therefore urge all residents of Dutse Alhaji and its leaders to patronise this facility maximally, in this way they will benefit to improve their quality of life.”

Explaining the mode of payment, the Director PVWater, Dr. Anthony Ighodaro, told INSIDE ABUJA that access to the services both by the PHC and the residents, requires recharge of a payment card of any amount like in the case of recharge cards.

In a simple analysis to explain the payment further, the officer in charge of the PHC, noted “the beauty of it is that this installation is cheaper than the satchet water the community is buying. A cost of one bag of satchet water if you get the card can give you up to ten bags of satchet water which goes for 100 or 120 per bag.”

Excited about the innovation, Raila is optimistic residents of Dutse-Alhaji will patronise the innovation thereby, reducing the incidence of diseases in the community to the barest minimum. “Definitely the community will patronise it because it is cheaper, cleaner and it is well treated.

“There is a laboratory which measure the quality of the water according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) standard and you are sure of the source, what you are drinking and the analysis are being done daily to ensure the water is clean.”

Although the Dutse-Alhaji PHC has overcome the challenges of poor security and electricity towards the end of last year and now water, there is need however for the engagement of more staff to adequately meet the health demands of residents who troop in to the facility in urgent need of health care; the PHC hosts over 115 patients on a daily basis, a herculean task for the 10 staff and 17 volunteers health running three shifts at the facility.

Haven worked in the Dutse-Alhaji PHC for almost 12 years, Raila desires nothing more than to see the volunteers engaged as full staff in the facility to ease seamless delivery of health services to its patients saying, “the hospital has been in existence since 1992, it has grown from being a community health post to become a clinic, to a primary health care centre and today it is a comprehensive site because we have two NYSC doctors working here with us but they are not enough.

“We have10 permanent staff and 17 volunteer staff made up of nurses, midwives, community health extension workers, community health officers. We run 24 hours service under three shifts. The volunteer staff are working here with me on their own volition to keep practicing to keep abreast of what they learnt in school. We presented their list to the representative of the minister if they can absorb them, if they cannot go on permanent job like us they can employ them under Npower. We have some people from Npower here working here and if these ones can join it will help us,” she appealed.


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