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Machina: The dry land

Water is the most essential part of human lives. Machina’s water scarcity is historical; older members of the community recount not having seen a drop of water from a drilled borehole for over 50 years. The UN states: "Clean water is a basic human need, and one that should be easily accessible to all. There is sufficient fresh water on the planet to achieve this. However, due to poor infrastructure, investment and planning, every year millions of people — most of them children — die from diseases associated with inadequate water supply, sanitation and hygiene" If that's the case, why was this community overlooked for more than 50 years? Machina (also known as Matsena) is a local government area in Yobe State, Nigeria.The Machina town is well-known for experiencing disastrous impacts of climate change, which include desert encroachment, unpredictable rainfall, food insecurity, and a lack of sustainable drinking water.

According to The SDGs Target 6.4: Increase water use efficiency and ensure freshwater supplies” The United Nations states the intention of, by 2030, substantially increasing water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity and substantially reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity. However, the lack of sustainable and effective fresh water supply persists in Machina despite these excellent intentions by the United Nations and the SDGs.


Other SDG 6 target indicators call for the sustainable and effective implementation and management of available water resources for a healthy life. If that is put into practice, there would be a dramatic decrease in water-borne diseases in Machina.

Individuals and youth organizations alone cannot solve the water shortage problem in the Machina community. Due to the high cost of breaking through the deep sand base water reservoirs, the water scarcity mayhem in Machina is beyond the scope of individuals and youth organizations. Boreholes and hand pumps have been installed in the community on numerous occasions, but none have been successful. So, what is the UN doing to achieve the SGDs in Machina?


My experience as a child


I was born and raised in Machina. As I grew older, I realized that since there are no lakes, ponds, or rivers for us to depend on, people had to travel a great distance to gather water. When it was first light, my brother and I had to walk far to get water. Typically, we travel in packs and get back just before dusk.

These routine morning activities have led to numerous children being expelled from a school as a result of low academic performance or being repeatedly recorded absent. For households in need, there is no other source of water, and they depend on children to fetch water for activities like washing, cooking, and other daily tasks. Most of the time, families had to pick between having their children attend school and traveling to get water. If you were fortunate enough to have a helper at home, you were spared from skipping classes. Many people have missed out on opportunities, and if precautions aren't taken, many more children's chances will be lost once more. This experience will always be fresh in my mind! Nations, states, and communities must be treated equally under the Sustainable Development Goals regardless of their race, tribe, area, or gender. The Machina community has been neglected for more than 50 years. Many continue to battle with the pain of ineffective sustainable water management.


The events of the past:

I was able to meet a 70-year-old woman while looking for this historical account, and she pointed out to me things that she had observed in Machina regarding water problems. I ask, for many years, Machina has been in poor condition. Can you explain how Machina has survived for so long without access to sustainable drinking water? As far as I'm aware, this neighborhood had four deep conventional hand-dig wells as recently as 30-45 years ago. Some of these wells required waiting for the water to settle before retrieving. I saw with my own eyes that residents of Machina had to wait more than 12 hours before obtaining 30 liters of water and arriving home in the late evening.


Some locals hold the view that the village of Machina was once bordered by rivers, but those rivers later dried up. How much of this is true? Was Machina previously a riverine community? When I was younger, I overheard individuals claiming the same thing, but I have never actually seen a river close to this hamlet. However, people of Machina tend to hold this cultural belief. Never will I confirm or refute the presence of rivers in this neighborhood. I can confirm that I observed individuals trekking both near and far to obtain water. The main villages from which water is delivered to Machina residents include Mafidu, Konkomma, Tauna, Lamisu, Diginsa, Falmaram, and others.


Photos: Ibrahim Inusa


How do people manage to take their usual baths in light of the difficulties they are experiencing? Well, who is discussing baths when there are people who are hungry and thirsty? People go days without washing their bodies with water; once, I went six days without having a bath. This was a typical scenario decades ago in machina; for most people, water is important for drinking and cooking, whether they take a bath or not. However, most houses in this community have never given bathing a high priority.


What has changed in Machina so far?

Early in 2009, boreholes were dug for the Machina community some 5–10 kilometers away; each day, pipes transport water from these wells to the main settlement. This process only lasts a few days, and problems including technical malfunctions, pipeline failures, engine failures, fuel shortages, and other issues are possible. People are forced to go back to their old way of life again by traveling far to get water till these breakdowns are addressed. It is a sad fact that daylight has not been set for sustainable drinking water for more than 50 years, and things have continued as they have for decades.


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