While undergoing the mandatory one year National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme and driven by a passion to make an impact in the society by helping those in need, Eseoghene Johnson helped to provide Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) facilities to an Abuja community in need.
When in 2018, Eseoghene Johnson walked into Zhidu community in Piwoyi area of Lugbe in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, as a member of the Batch B Stream 1 of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), all that was on his mind was reaching out and helping communities in need.
Johnson’s passion for helping the needy did not start that year, for much of his young life, he has been an advocate for sustainable development in Nigeria and the voluntary community development project during his NYSC only provided another avenue to be of service to humanity.
“I am a passionate advocate of the sustainable development goals and have made it my life’s mission to improve the quality of life for all people wherever and whenever I can,” Johnson told CCSI in a tweetchat. It was that vision that drove him in the direction of Zhidu village, a community of about 2,000 people on the fringe of the FCT.
Though Zhidu village is close to the seat of Nigeria’s power with all the modern infrastructures and civilisation, the village it seems was living in the stone age, lacking all of human basic infrastructure including access to clean water and sanitation.
The community is characterized by rugged terrain and abundant bare land with year-round changes and inconsistencies in climatic conditions.
“Healthcare and education are lacking in this community, people are forced to eat majorly carbohydrates because of poverty, the main source of water has been a large river for many years and the main occupation is farming, this poor community have some people living on almost nothing,” Johnson said.
The community received Johnson and his intervention with open arms The situation of the community was dire and poverty startling. “Upon entry you’d notice improper waste disposal, absence of water wells and boreholes and no public or even home toilets in most houses in the village. I then engaged with the community leader who told me more about their community and what they face relating to Lack of Water.”
Carrying the community along in the intervention was important after which he was able to tailor his advocacy to meet their needs and direct the project towards where it would best serve the people.
But it was not a walk in the park for Johnson, there were many challenges which he had to survive by grit and determination. One of such is sponsorship for the WASH intervention. “ Getting sponsorship for such intervention can be challenging especially when you don’t fall under the umbrella of a recognised organisation,” he said.
Salvation came in the name of Hope Spring International Water Charity which sponsored 75 percent of the WASH project. The remaining funds came through from him and friends and family.
But was the sacrifice worth it? “ Elated, excited, fulfilled and compelled to do more,” he said and added: “ The joy on the faces of men, women and children alike on the day of the commissioning is a memory that will live with me forever. They danced and sang aloud because they finally have what they can call their own,” Johnson said.
According to the United Nation Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF): “Poor access to improved water and sanitation in Nigeria remains a major contributing factor to high morbidity and mortality rates among children under five. The use of contaminated drinking water and poor sanitary conditions result in increased vulnerability to water-borne diseases, including diarrhoea which leads to deaths of more than 70,000 children under five annually.
“Seventy-three per cent of the diarrhoeal and enteric disease burden is associated with poor access to adequate water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), and is disproportionately borne by poorer children. Frequent episodes of WASH related ill-health in children, contribute to absenteeism in school, and malnutrition. Only 26.5 per cent of the population use improved drinking water sources and sanitation facilities. Also, 23.5 per cent of the population defecate in the open.
Support from the community towards him and his intentions was undeniably present however the struggle he faced in finding sponsors seemed to overwhelm it. “After social media broadcasts over a period of time with very little productivity, a friend contacted me about an NGO wanting to sponsor projects just like mine (A borehole). The process was painful and exhausting but after I met this NGO it was all worth it”. The organization he was referring to is Hope Spring International Water Charity, which sponsored 75% of the entire project. He was able to pull the remaining funds through contributions from friends and family as well as from his own pocket.