Women who are pregnant or menstruating are denied water in an Akwa Ibom village – WASH

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In Mbiabet Ikot Udo, in the Ini local government area of Akwa Ibom State, the Coordinator, Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WaSH)-Gender Project Team, Prof Emmanuel Akpabio, has revealed that menstruation women and twin mothers are denied access to drinking water due to superstitious fears that the water supply will run empty.

In an interview with local media on Friday, Prof. Akpabio, Director of the University of Uyo’s Office of International Programs, made the announcement.

He explained that the discovery was documented as part of the team’s study of three counties in the state.

The lack of clean water and the fear that it would be poisoned have, he claimed, allowed this myth to persist unchecked for decades in the affected population.

Noting that women, girls, and other vulnerable individuals are hampered in their ability to participate in economic and educational activities due to a lack of access to WaSH, the professor advocated for strong public intervention in providing water for such communities, noting that this would also address the issue of open defecation.

“For Mbiabet Ikot Udo, there is just one supply of drinking water, yet stagnant water (Idim Affia) maintains itself by undersurface drainage with a brownish hue. During the dry season, when other sources would have dried up, this supplies water to a population of 1,200, plus an additional six settlements (about 6,000 people). Domestic and industrial users alike can fill their water tanks from this supply.

This water is off-limits to pregnant women who are expecting twins. We’ve been told that whenever a mother of multiples visits the stream, it becomes contaminated with unknown substances, dries up gradually, and only returns to normal after communal rituals and sacrifices are carried out.

“Women who are menstruating are also traditionally forbidden from entering the stream, with prolonged blood discharge as the penalty for disobeying this rule. The only way for the victims to receive water is through family, friends, paid help, or community donations. If they can’t receive help, “they’ll go without water for that time,” Akpabio said.

He said that the practice has contributed to sexism in the provision of WaSH services and has put women at risk of experiencing psychosocial and other types of gender-based abuse, all of which have negative effects on their health.

To quote him: “When women in their menstrual cycles are denied access to water and safe spaces for menstrual hygiene management, as in Mbiabet Ikot Udo, they are directly and indirectly subjected to psychosocial and other forms of gender-based violence, as well as affect their health as they struggle to make up for such a lack. Their basic human rights are often infringed, and they lack the agency to fight back.

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