The Battle for Water and Washing – Onwubariri Emmanuel Chidube

Three years after my injury, I began to help myself as nobody else would help me. I cooked, washed, swept, and cleaned myself as best I could. I was pretty active. I could do a lot during the day, but I still had many challenges and limitations.

My big challenge was getting water to support me in cooking,clothes washing, and bathing. Getting water in the rural area isn’t really an easy thing to do especially when one is sick or old. The source of water in my village comes mostly by a local stream, a watering hole, and by people using a tank to collect rainwater.

The stream is located quite far away and also down a hill. People walk to the stream very early in the morning to go take a bath and wash their clothes. Sometimes, they spread their laundry on a nearby bush for it to dry. This happens more often during the dry season in which water is scarce.

The water hole is privately owned. The owners sell the water as a business. The waterhole is a big relief to everyone in my village. A wheelbarrow filled with two to three containers makes it much easier to buy water and bring it home.

Getting water is usually a major problem for me. As a person with spinal cord injury, I need to maintain a high level of personal hygiene. Most of the time, I wheel myself to town square, hoping to see who will help me go and buy water for bathing and doing my chores. Other times, I wheel out to the town square. I will wait for three or four hours for the bus that sells water in bags to come so I can buy my drinking water. This whole process of getting water has never been easy for me. Fortunately, there are times when my younger brother will help me out.

Washing my clothes was not that hard for me to do, despite the stress and pain it created. I saw it as an exercise for whenever I go out in my wheelchair. As time went on, due to lack of a decent cushion, I developed a pressure sore which formed an ulcer on my butt. I began to find it difficult to use my wheelchair to wash. I determined that whenever I used my wheelchair and washed my clothes, my sore will break open. I would have to stay in my bed for many days for it to heal up. I discovered that I had no choice but to wash my clothes from my bed. I wash while lying on my side. Before starting, I will have negotiated with someone to go out and buy water for me. Next, I pour the water into my bucket, and get back on my bed and do the washing.

Washing from my wheelchair involves me moving my body up and down. While moving, the pressure and weight all goes to my butt where my sore is. Washing from the bed became the only alternative because I am laying on my side and off the pressure to my butt.

After washing from my bed, I am in a lot of pain because I moved around in a most awkward manner. Also, because my chest bone was broken from my accident, I feel more pain.

I hope to build a stand and have a plastic tank on it to collect rainwater during the rainy season. During the dry season, I will buy water from the water supply tanks. This way I would be able to flush my toilet, and take a bath. I would also like to buy a washing machine and hook it up to the water stand.

For now, I am doing the best I can with what I have.