“No one goes to a health care facility to get sick. People go to get better, to deliver babies,to get vaccinated. Yet, hundreds of millions of people face an increased risk of infection by seeking care in health facilities that lack basic necessities, including water, sanitation, hygiene (WASH)” – WHO/UNICEF

How long can you stay in a hospital without water or toilet?

Finding answer to this critical question led the #ClaimYourWaterRights team to visit some of the hospitals within Enugu State. All five hospital workers we interviewed said their major source of water was from rain water harvesting which is seasonal and when the rains are no more they buy water from tankers.

Rain water harvesting in Umuchigbo Amurri Health Centre, Nkanu West LGA, Enugu State

Most of them didn’t have toilets. At one of the health centres (A general hospital) we were even directed to the bush when we requested to use the toilet. This is the sad reality faced by many patients and hospital workers in Enugu; a situation that has made the health care facilities more of a death trap than a place of relief and recovery.

Toilet facility at Nenwe Health Centre II, Aninri LGA, Enugu State

Faced with this stark reality, we thought it needful to engage the Hospital Administrator of Enugu state hospital management board to know if they are actually aware of this situation especially in this period of the coronavirus outbreak, where Frontline healthcare workers are faced with increased risk of being infected with virus. During the weekly #ClaimYourWaterRights radio programme, tagged #YourWaterYourRight, the Hospital Administrator had these to say:

“Water is one of the most important interventions in health care delivery. To me, it’s even more important than the drugs been given because a clean environment doesn’t allow diseases to thrive”

“If we are able to get our acts correct as far as water supply is concerned,… we are more than 60% controlling most of the diseases that burden us”

“The Enugu State water policy has made it mandatory that water must be provided to every secondary Health Care Facility in Enugu State…and the government is acting on it by focusing initially on all General Hospitals… and these four General Hospitals are already mapped out for water provision: Agbani, Udi, Enugu Ezike, and Nsukka”.

Dr. Okechukwu Ossai, Hospital Administrator, Hospitals Management Board, Enugu State

In his remarks, he also acknowledged that “Water is a fundamental human right! It goes beyond the issue of politics. We cannot politick with water because it is part of life”, whilst also emphasizing that “Enugu State government has declared a state of emergency in provision of water in health care facilities”

In his closing statements, the Hospital Administrator affirmed that before the end of the year, he will come back on air to recount the number of Health Care Facilities that has been provided with safe and clean water. A commitment which the #ClaimYourWaterRights team hold dear and would follow up.

It is good to know that the hospital management board has recognized that there is a gap in the provision of water in healthcare facilities and that the government is working towards bringing this to an end by focusing on secondary health care facilities. They have also mapped out selected hospitals to fix their water supply as an emergency.

One thing we’ve come to normalize in Nigeria, is to live with unfulfilled promises of our politicians. Our leaders have also come to realize that they can get away with anything, as nobody holds them accountable. It’s hightime this perception changed!

So right now the onus is on you and I (as citizens) to ask questions and follow up with these commitments from the Enugu State hospital management board. You can do this independently, as a group or you can also join us (online or offline).

Today, you might feel less concerned because you have not been affected by the deplorable state of our health care facilities. You probably only go to private hospitals where you turn on the tap and water runs. If there’s one thing the Coronavirus pandemic has taught us, it is that nobody lives in isolation; a society is only as healthy as its most vulnerable member.

How concerned and triggered are you to lend your voice and time to advocacte for a change?

Let’s protect the rights of our health workers and make our hospitals work for everyone!