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Water Meanings, Sanitation Practices and Hygiene Behaviours in the Cultural Mirror: a Perspective from Nigeria Emmanuel M. Akpabio, PhD Dept of Geography.

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Presentation on theme: "Water Meanings, Sanitation Practices and Hygiene Behaviours in the Cultural Mirror: a Perspective from Nigeria Emmanuel M. Akpabio, PhD Dept of Geography."— Presentation transcript:

1 Water Meanings, Sanitation Practices and Hygiene Behaviours in the Cultural Mirror: a Perspective from Nigeria Emmanuel M. Akpabio, PhD Dept of Geography & Regional Planning, University of Uyo, Nigeria & Served as AvH Fellow ZEF (1st May, st October, 2012) I thank the Water Institute, UNC, for the Scholarship to Present this Paper

2 A Typical Water and Sanitation Situation in Nigeria

3 A typical Waterside Settlement

4 A Typical Waterside Settlement

5 Background of Study Area 1. Where is Akwa Ibom State Located in Nigeria? -South-South of Nigeria - A total Population of 3,920,208 (NPC,2007) % live in the rural areas -Ibibios, Annang, Oron -Over 90% are Christians -Rural Areas lack basic infrastructures such as good roads, electricity, water and health facilities, etc. estimates-less than 50% have access to WS services in urban areas while the rural areas are worst off 1. Where is Akwa Ibom State Located in Nigeria? -South-South of Nigeria - A total Population of 3,920,208 (NPC,2007) % live in the rural areas -Ibibios, Annang, Oron -Over 90% are Christians -Rural Areas lack basic infrastructures such as good roads, electricity, water and health facilities, etc. estimates-less than 50% have access to WS services in urban areas while the rural areas are worst off

6 Some Insights into the Literature Environmental values rooted in traditional practices, religious beliefs and knowledge systems that contribute to community norms (Alcorn, 1993). Model of reasoned action is more individually centred & does not stress the specific role of social & ecological factors in explaining human behaviours. working on individual as the unit of analysis & intervention in behavioural change & human cognition is meaningless without understanding the wider socio-cultural contexts for which behaviours occur. Morphy’s (1998) model of cultural adaptation, which sets out to reconcile human experience and the various temporal and material realities of evolutionary, ecological and cultural change implies that different contexts carry different implications for human behaviours and adaptation. when we give meaning to the objects of….interactions, people act on them, which affects them’. That explains the reason why ‘ecology blends environmental sciences with human cultures (Babe, 1997). Gibson (1986) conceived the environment from both physical (ecological) & phenomenological (visual perception) perspectives. Local knowledge of the environment depends on the interaction of the spiritual, social, and material worlds (Boonzaaijer and Apusigah, 2008). people‘s relationship with water is mediated through learnt cultural experience-individual experiences with water make the context of meaning relevant (Strang, 2004). intervention programme cannot solely depend on the scientific understanding of disease etiology, references must also be made to accomodate values and beliefs that affect peoples’ attitudes toward disease itself as well as behaviours towards modern intervention system (Jewitt, 2011; Azevedo et.al, 1991; Odumosu, 2010).

7 Knowledge Gap  Existing literature on W/S seems ‘loose’ and ‘soft’ & without thorough analytical methods or techniques in understanding these issue from the perspective of cultural communities in Africa.  Most studies or analyses are bereft of indigenously relevant concepts to facilitate understanding and solution  Such lack of indigenous tools does not allow us understand the complexities of problems and thus make it less useful to address realities  Question: can we trully solve the problem of water and sanitation in rural communities without reference to the general contexts of environment and culture?  A framework for understanding the contexts of W/S practices in local communities is important- TEK.

8 What I did Ideas & meanings about water & sanitation Ideas of common water and sanitation diseases and disease epidemics Child/infant sanitation/excreta disposal Locational influences of sanitation behaviours Food and domestic hygiene Toilet system and hygiene practices Healing practices Water quality perception Physical cleanliness etc. Question: how do these issues play into the model?

9 Ideas and Beliefs around Water, Sanitation Practice and Hygiene Behaviours 1 Local Beliefs/ideas of Water General WorldviewsManifestations Sense of purity. 1.’divine’ and ‘sacred’ resource. 2.water cannot harm (in traditional societies, issues of industrial water pollution are relatively unheared of. A behavioural change could be possible if water pollution were to be a problem). 1.A local proverb says Mmooη-mmooη eyet idiợknkpợ, idiợk-nkpợ iyetke mmooη (It is only water that can wash away dirt). 2. Water is believed to come from God (Mmọọη edi ake Abasi) and so is perfect. 3. The use in Holy water come from this belief. 4. Purity exemplifies the cleansing power of water which forms the basis of ritual bathes. Homes of spirit deities and ancestors. 1. Water bodies of this category have existential meaning to individuals and communities. 2. Water is believed to offer healing powers to some human problems upon drinking or bathing. 1.Unquestioning use of water irrespective of quality. 2. Changes in quality are believed to be caused by the spirit deities. 3. Attract values, rituals and deification. Religious/spiritual symbol. Water is believed to possess spiritual cleansing power among the Christians and traditional religion. 1.Holy water. 2. Ritual bathes.

10 Ideas and Beliefs around Water, Sanitation Practice and Hygiene Behaviours 2 Local beliefs/ideas of waterGeneral worldviewsmanifestations Cleanliness. ‘nsana idem ado uyai’ (physical cleanliness is beauty). This notion encourages good hygienic practices by the educated and better exposed. Sanitary taboos. Unsanitary persons especially women are not to be stigmatized (you do not say a woman smells or is dirty). It is a taboo. It triggers mass women nude protest directed against the offender (often accompanied by some diabolical rituals). Myths around Germs. Germs never kill Africa (germs iwutke Africa). A readily available justification for unavoidable unhygienic practices or for consuming unhygienic food. Child Health/well-being.The child’s life is believed to be in the protective hands of ‘God’ (Abasi ekpeme ntuho-eyen). 1. Children’s excreta are regarded as inoffensive. 2. Children are allowed to experiment with many things including soil eating. 3. Infant with a sign of convulsion or epilepsy is sometimes abandoned at a waste dump site as a traditional method for healing.

11 Ideas and Beliefs around Water, Sanitation Practice and Hygiene Behaviours 3 Local beliefs/ideas of water General worldviewsmanifestations Diseases Epidemics. 1. Diarrhea or cholera epidemics assume spiritual explanation. It is seen as abnormal-‘idoho nkana’, ‘utoro-ikpu’, utoro-anwa ifot’- especially if it kills. 2. It is linked with seasonal fruits and vegetables. 1. Solution depends on the spiritual or traditional rituals. 2. Restriction against eating fruits and some vegetables. Healing and Bathe restriction. It is believed to be part of the rules and processes of some traditional or spiritual healing. Most traditional healing processes restrict their patience from bathe for some days. Human excreta and traditional medicine. This partly anchors on the belief that the dirtier the elements are the more effective the concoctions are believed to be. Human faeces and urine occasionally form part of traditional medicine and spiritual healing concoction e.g., editibe (local immunity against charms); akpub (bullet proof), etc. Infant/Child Hygiene Linked to parental bond and inoffensiveness of child’s waste products. 1. Infant faeces are not to be dumped alongside the adults. They are often disposed of around a plantain or banana stalk. It is believed the infant teeth will not develop. 2. Mothers are not bound to wash hands after baby’s excreta handling. 3.children of under 7 years are normally free to defecate at any other location outside the general toilet 4. Swaddling clothes are mostly washed at home by hand for re-use. 5. Parents use their mouth to suck off infant nasal mucus. 6. parent/elders spit saliva into the mouth of the infant.

12 What I am Currently Doing 1 Envtal Contexts WaterSanitation Physical  Physical cleanliness observed for drinking water to some extent.  Settlement locations close to bodies of large rivers do not harbor much concern on the river water quality either because of religious/spiritual reason or simply a historical reason of established use.  Cleanliness is beauty (nsana idem ado uyai). This is the basis for regular physical hygiene and compound/village cleanliness  Settlement location near gullies, ravines, rivers and open bushes practice open defecation most. Socio- economic  Food hygiene, child health and well-being practices (e.g., handwashing after baby’s wastes handling or before and after defecation.  Covering drinking water and maintaining some safe distance from excreta and waste materials.  Washing dishes and covering them to prevent infectious flies.  Perception of water and sanitation epidemics as seasonal phenomena, among several other practices  Water related epidemics rarely linked to water but to witches and witchcraft and sorceries.  Practices here range from physical bodily cleanliness, covering the latrine, regular toilet cleaning and disinfection, regular house and kitchen cleaning, safe toilet distance from house, infant/child excreta disposal practice, ownership of latrine, open defecation practices, perception of water and sanitation diseases epidemics as seasonal phenomena, relating infant diarrhea and cholera to the development of teeth, sucking infant nasal mucus with mouth, etc.

13 What I am Currently Doing 2 Envtal Contexts WaterSanitation Cultural  Water as home of spirit deities (this presupposes emotional attachment).  Water as divine or sacred resource (water cannot harm-mmọọ ɳ mmọọ ɳ eyet idioknkpo).  Power of spiritual cleansing and healing (some bodies of water serve these purposes).  Existential meanings (some human souls are believed to be harboured in bodies of water. Such individuals must develop close attachments to such bodies of water by bathing and drinking regularly or during sickness irrespective of the quality.  Water beliefs more stronger in settlements closer to large bodies of water e.g., coastal and riverine settlement locations.  Unquestioning use of water irrespective of quality.  Sanitary taboo (e.g., stigmatizing a woman as dirty is a taboo).  Child hygiene and health loaded with beliefs and customary attitudes (parent-child bond, child is free to defecate anywhere, dirty places such as waste dumpsites have healing values for certain infant/child sickness e.g., convulsion).  Because of spiritual and religious values, water is mostly exonerated as agents of some diseases.  Some healing rituals restrict patience from bath.  Human excreta and urine sometimes form part of healing mixture.  Infant faeces not to be dumped alongside adults‘ but disposed of in the open.  Parents spit saliva into infant mouths.

14 A Tentative Model  Key broad constructs about the model include: 1.) humans-actors; 2.) environment-contexts. The relationship between these two constructs engenders what behaviours and outcomes are possible.  Interrelationships between human and the physical environment produces meanings, knowledge and accepted norms of behaviours  Such interrelationship is dynamic-can change or reinforce depending on circumstances & locations.  contextual environment are critical in reinforcing water and sanitation behaviours in rural areas of Africa;  The temporal dimension of human contexts imply a continuously shifting or changing situations, which also sets the stage for behavioural change/adjustment in relation to emerging set goals

15 For Further Reading Akpabio, E. M. (2012). Water Meanings, Sanitation Practices and Hygiene Bahaviours in the Cultural Mirror: a Perspective from Nigeria. Journal of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Development. 02 (3): Akpabio, E. M. and S. V. Subramanian (2012). Traditional Ecological Knowledge: an Emerging framework for Understanding Water and Sanitation Practices in Nigeria. ZEF Working Paper Series 94. Zentrü für Entwicklungsforschung, University of Bonn, Germany. Akpabio, E. M. (2012). Water Beliefs and the Changing times in Nigeria. In: Hans P. Hahn, K. Cless and J. Soentgen (eds). People at the Well: Kinds, Usages and Meanings of Water in a Global Perspective. Campus Verlag, Frankfurt, Germany. Pp Akpabio, E. M Water and People: Perception and Management Practices in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria. Society and Natural Resources, 24 (6): Further Information: DOI: / DOI: /

16 Common Mistakes Issues directly emerging from these arguments include:  a.) the existence of actors outside the immediate social and ecological situation who recognize the problems and prescribe solutions;  b.) the existence of elite groups who use all instruments of state resources to promote ‘sanctioned knowledge practices’ even if it is obviously outside the norms of the local knowledge systems. Often times, the relationship between ‘outsider actors’ and ‘local ones’ in evolving common intervention or knowledge system remain unworkable given the domineering attitude of the outsider actor as well as mutually unwilling attitudes to learn from each other’s knowledge.  Given that attitudes and understanding around water translate into behaviours which in some cases may impact on sanitation practices, the framework provides a functional structure in which solution could be designed given that one will know where and how to strike

17 Conclusion The ideas and arguments in this presentation revolve around the need to widen our analytical lens by giving recognition and subsequently incorporating the multiplicity of complex environmental, socio-economic, temporal and cultural factors in understanding equally complex environmental health issues that are deeply entrenched in culture.

18  I THANK THE WATER INSTITUTE at UNC  Thank you all for Listening


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