HealthSpecial Reports

Inside Ogun Communities Where Stream Polluted With Open Defecation Saves Lives

For decades, access to clean and drinkable water has been a great challenge to these communities. The inhabitants defecate and bathe directly inside the stream which serves as their only source of water. Because of the fear of contracting the waterborne disease and other abdominal disturbances, they decided to set a day aside for worshiping the stream with the belief that the goddess living inside the stream would protect them from such diseases. ADETUTU SOBOWALE, who visited the communities reports.

Tope Ayodele was washing clothes inside a big black bowl placed at the riverbank. After she finished washing, she disposed of the soapy and dirty water inside the Rolupo stream.

Despite that she disposed of the soapy water inside the stream, Ayodele who is a pregnant woman still ordered her son whom she called Tunde to carry to their house, a bucket filled with water she took from the stream.

Ayodele wanted to cook with the stream water and would at the same time serve the remaining to her family for drinking.

“The water he took home is what we will be drinking and using for cooking. We have little at home before, he will add this to it, that is what we will be using now, when it finishes, we will come for another water,” Ayodele said.

Aside from Ayodele and her family members, other inhabitants of the community also quenched their taste by drinking from the stream and making use of the water for bathing and other household chores because they had no alternative.

“This is what we have access to in this village and we are managing it like that, everybody has been using it for a long time for cooking, drinking, bathing and many other things,” she added.

‘Rolupo river’, the name of the stream, was coined from the village name, Afowowa Rolupo. The next village, Afowowa Gbelu, also caters for its inhabitants through water obtained from the stream.

At Afowowa Gbelu, the situation is not different, the residents also depend solely on the Rolupo stream because it flows through their community.

Both Afowowa Rolupo and Afowowa Gbelu are considered rural communities situated after about an hour and a half’s ride from Itori area, a densely populated city within the Ewekoro Local Government area of Ogun State.

Inhabitants of these communities are largely farmers who contribute to the food basket of the state and the nation at large but access to safe and affordable drinking water according to Goal six of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals has been a dream that is yet to come through for them.

At Rolupo, the reporter was greeted by the sight of their children’s potbelly and thin bodies. The children roamed around the village barefooted. Their dark-colored skin looks wrinkled.

Looking at the children with their ratch-infected faces, visitors to the community would easily predict that both the children and their parents are going through unpleasant situations.

According to a June 2019 report by the United Nations Children’s Fund and the World Health Organisation, one in three persons around the world today does not have access to safe drinking water.

The report further states that the presence of contaminated water in such places, not only leads to poor hygiene, but also promotes the transmission of diseases like cholera, dysentery, hepatitis A, and typhoid.

Open defecation site

This reporter was walking towards the stream when he sighted Samuel Balogun, bending in a bush close to the river bank of the Rolupo stream.

After about three minutes, 13-year-old Balogun raised his head above the bushes with his pants already shifted to his knee, apparently exposing his buttocks.

Samuel managed to get to the river bank dangling his private part. He bent down again with his pants still left below his knee, dug his left hand inside the stream and started washing his buttocks.

“That is what we used to do here, some people used to go inside the bush and defecate, if they are going they will take water from the stream and some of us used to feel we should wait near the stream and do whatever we want to do,” Samuel said.

After washing his buttocks inside the stream, Samuel, accompanied by his friends, jumped inside the stream and started bathing.

According to data published by the United Nations Children’s Fund, 122 million people were practicing open defecation in West and Central Africa in 2015. Nigeria was ranked second in the world with 47 million open defecators.

A survey findings of the Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) services of 2019 revealed that the overall status of the WASH sector in Nigeria is low.

The survey indicated that only 9 percent of the population in Nigeria have access to complete WASH services, and those living in rural areas are two times more disadvantaged than those in urban areas.

In October 2020, Ogun State Government declared a state of emergency in water, sanitation, and hygiene in the state.

Stream goddesses

Despite the fact that the stream has been subjected to open detection and other pollution substances, inhabitants of these two communities still strongly believe that the stream is a healing mystery stream for them.

They believed the stream was an intervention from the gods to help them quench their thirst. As a means of expressing appreciation to the gods, they decided on offering traditional sacrifices to the stream once a year.

Some of the elders who spoke with the reporter claimed that offering sacrifice for the stream would prevent them from waterborne diseases and other diseases that could be contracted through drinking or making use of the stream water.

Rasheed Bolaji, a 55-year-old man, said residents of the village showed appreciation to the gods by slaughtering a ram and several chickens towards the end of the year as a means of worshiping the stream.

“It cures ailment, the stream protects us from diseases, it is purified, that is why we usually make sacrifices for the stream at the end of the year. We usually slaughter rams and chickens for the gods of the stream. There are fishes inside the stream but we must not kill them or else, the person will suffer from one ailment or the other,” he said.

Mummy Ifeoluwa, a mother of three also said the stream water cures ailments.

“It is a source of ailment for us. If a child is sick and they bathe him or her with water and give him or her a drink, the child will get better. Our children don’t get sick because we bathe them with stream water every time.”

Another mother of four who identified herself as Mama Tope also said “We are used to drinking from the stream. We believe the stream water is pure. Our children both kids and adults, even our pregnant women drink from the stream and they usually deliver safely”.

Diarrhea, dysentery and abdominal disturbances

The lack of access to clean and drinkable water has made life a living hell for residents of these two communities.

Laboratory tests conducted at an Osun State Water Corporation office showed that the stream water contains not less than 120 bacteria in one meal. The laboratory result indicated that whoever drank from the stream or put the water in use would be infected with dysentery or diarrhea and other abdominal disturbances.

A professor of Medical Laboratory Science, Oladele Hassan who translated the laboratory result to the reporter said the stream water is drinkable only when boiled at 100 degrees centigrade.

Translating the terminologies on the result, Professor Hassan said, “It showed that the people can be infected with dysentery or diarrhea and other abdominal disturbances if they drink this water or use it to wash fruits or some other things. However, if this water is cooked at hundred-degree centigrade, if it is boiled, it can be used for drinking and other households,” the laboratory expert said.

The professor of medical laboratory science added that results from the laboratory on the stream water showed that if anybody drinks or makes use of the stream water without boiling, such people will contract bacteria of not less than 120.

“Naturally, water should not have bacteria, but this water has not less than one hundred and twenty (120) bacteria in one meal, depending on the volume of the water, it will be multiplied by the 120,” he added.

Professor Hassan explained that the result indicated that the stream water has been contaminated with urine, refuse and other sources of microorganisms.

“There is presence of microorganisms in the water and equally showed that it cannot be used for drinking, washing of fruits and things that won’t be cooked before taken to the mouth. The result showed that the water is highly contaminated with other sources of microorganisms like the dumping of refuse, urination into the water and some other things,” the laboratory expert noted.

He however warned against drinking from the stream water.

“As it is, the water is not suitable for human consumption, there will be a need for necessary authority to purify the water before sending it to the public for consumption.”

But, the villagers told this reporter that they are used to consuming and making use of the stream water without boiling it.

13- year-old Samuel said he used to consume the stream water every time and never felt any abdominal pain.

“We drink directly from this stream, I still drank from it today, the whole villagers drink from this stream as well. I do not feel any abdominal pain after drinking the water,” Samuel stated.

A mother of four who identified herself as Mama Tope said, “We are used to drinking from the stream. We believe the stream water is pure. Our children both kids and adults, even our pregnant women drink from the stream and they usually deliver safely.”


Findings of the 2019 WASH NORM Survey indicated that households in Nigeria spent N3.3 trillion on water, sanitation and hygiene.

Analyzing the estimations as shown by the WASH Survey, the Water project gulped N1.214t, the Sanitation project got N62b and N2.007t was earmarked for the Hygiene project.

Breaking down the expenses on Water projects, the survey showed that N485b was spent on water treatment, N448b was spent on storage and transport, N244b was spent on levies, N26b was spent on construction, N11b was spent on facility repairs.

Breaking down the expenses on Sanitation projects, the survey indicated that N23b was spent on levies, N18b was spent on toilet emptying, N13b was spent on construction and N7b was spent on toilet maintenance.

Breaking down the expenses on the Hygiene project, the survey revealed that N884b was spent on bath and laundry soap, N460b was spent on washing materials and equipment, N260b was spent on toothpaste, N254b was spent on sanitary pads, N170b was spent on toilet paper, N6b was spent on construction.

Despite the huge WASH budgetary allocation, clean water is still far from the reach of many households, especially in rural communities like that of Afowowa Rolupo and Afowowa Gbelu.

Nigeria is a signatory to the agreement of the Goal six of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals calls for universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water.

From N54.02bn in 2017, N4.2bn in 2018, N6.90bn in 2019, and N91bn in 2020, the allocation for water sanitation programs in Nigeria keeps soaring. Available data showed that the country is not in any way improving in the provision of access to drinkable and affordable water.

In 2017 UNICEF ranked Nigeria among the top five countries in the world with a large number of people without access to safe water.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in November 2016 disclosed that about 150,000 children die of diarrhea-related diseases each year in Nigeria from drinking unsafe water.

“About 150,000 children under the age of five die annually from diarrhea-related diseases that are mostly traceable to unsafe drinking water. The situation is even more depressing in the rural areas where polluted ponds and streams remain the only source of water for drinking and other household chores. This trend must change,” the Vice President said.

In May 2018, Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu disclosed that over 50 million Nigerians do not have access to good water.

‘’We are supposed to have achieved 75% coverage for water supply and a certain percentage for sanitation. Unfortunately, we are not able to meet that. We met the water supply by only 69% but we did very poorly in sanitation. So, this 69% means over 50 million Nigerians still don’t have access to potable water”.

No comment

The Ogun State Commissioner for Rural and Urban Development, Taiwo Oludotun said he cannot comment when this reporter contacted him.

The commissioner however directed this reporter to one Ogunbo, saying he has answers to all the questions raised by this reporter.

Immediately, this reporter called Ogunbo, but his phone number was not connected for several days.

When the effort to get the commissioner and his work was not successful, the reporter contacted Adekunle Otun, the special adviser to Governor Dapo Abiodun on water and special duties.

The Special Adviser said “The location you are talking about can be considered a rural area, In Ogun State, we have an agency that is called Rural water and sanitation agency (RUWATSAN) that agency is saddled with the responsibilities of ensuring that there is water in rural areas not only water supply but including sanitation, that agency is under the ministry of rural development. If I talk to you about this question, I may talk to you maybe because I have a knowledge of what they are doing but it is not my responsibility, I am solely responsible for urban and semi-urban water supply. The rural water is under the RUWATSAN agency which is under the ministry of rural and urban development.”

Meanwhile, efforts to get the Director of RUWATSAN to speak were unsuccessful as his number was not reachable at the time of filing this report.

This report was supported by The Africa Data Hub Community Journalism Fellowship


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