In Nigeria, It’s More Than Just a Water Pump

June 29, 2017 by Sarah Cunningham in

If you are active on social media, you’ve probably heard about the critical need for clean water in many developing countries. But it can be difficult, when reading on the internet, to fully grasp the impact that water solutions can have on a community. After all, on the surface, it’s just a water pump, right?

But to a village in northern Nigeria, this device is far more than a water pump.

If you visited this area, the first thing you would notice is the heat. While the sun beats down on this region, dry winds chase up clouds of dust from the parched earth. If you drew closer to the community water pump itself, you’d see your first sign of human life—a line of people gathered, waiting their turn to dispense water.

You’d likely see a mother rhythmically cranking the pump’s mechanical arm to release a steady stream of crisp, clear water from the spout. The effort it requires of her would be noticeable. But though the work would seem excessive to those who are used to getting water from a faucet, she would be grateful for even the sound made by the precious liquid flowing into her plastic bucket.

Once a mother gathers her water—often filling a 20-liter container—she usually carries it through the dusty village to her home in order to begin preparing a meal. At home, she would take the water to her outdoor kitchen and begin building a fire and filling her cast iron pot. A common meal is a simple porridge made from adding water to flour, which is made by stirring quickly to dissolve lumps.

These mothers consider even this difficult task of pumping and lugging around buckets of water a gift compared to life before the borehole was installed in the community. Before this pump was made available, she and her fellow villagers’ only source of water was a murky stream nearby. And whenever they took a sip from this water source, they knew they were risking contracting diarrhea, typhoid and other water-borne diseases.

Back then, the sickness was constant.

One mother in the village, Gloria, explains how meaningful it is to have access to safe water to cook for her family. “I just want to thank Open Doors for providing the borehole for us. We didn’t have clean water to drink or to even cook with. But now we are able to get clean water. I have no words to say other than a simple thank you!”

Unfortunately, Gloria really is representative of many more mothers and people beyond herself and her village. Her community’s circumstances are by no means unique. Christians across the 12 Sharia-governed states of northern Nigeria are often antagonized for their faith and purposefully skipped over for government services. The only source of water is either contaminated streams or nearby Muslim villages where Christian visitors may face harassment. Without these basic necessities like water points, clinics and schools, life is extremely difficult.

Since 2009 and until the end of 2016, we have provided more than 40 boreholes to villages in Katsina (13), Kano (12), Kaduna (7), Niger (7) Gombe (2), Bauchi (2) and Plateau States (1). And as you can imagine, to villagers like Gloria, when water pumps arrive, they see more than just a borehole. They see a symbol of hope.

One villager, Joseph, aptly summarizes what water means to these people groups, “I cannot describe our suffering. It was just too much. Now that we have an abundance of water, I think it is a wonder that we all survived those days.”

The hope that this water brings is not just physical hope either. It is spiritual hope, as well. Bitrus, another community member, describes how this gift of water reinforces the villagers’ faith. “I used to look at Christianity as a lonely religion in which you just have to struggle alone. But I have since changed this view. I see that people care for us. I am encouraged to care for others, too. Please continue with this good work. As far as I am concerned, this is the gospel. God bless you.”

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