20th March 2018

The women at the Bo maternity clinic in Sierra Leone gather round the water pump to collect safe drinking water for the day’s use. The well, which supplies clean water for both the clinic and the local community, was built by the Bo clinic, run by the Faith Healing Development Organisation (FHDO), with support from Bread and Water for Africa UK (BWAUK). Before the well and pump were up and running the staff and mothers at the clinic, and the local community had to walk miles for clean water, or drink local water that could be contaminated.

Woman is pumping water in front of the clinic in Bo

Access to clean water helps improve school performance

Sierra Leone was very badly affected by the Ebola epidemic (2014-2016), which left much of the county in ruins, and the difficulty of getting clean water has been an obstacle to rebuilding the population. At another FHDO project: the Logos Academy in the Kenema district, a well has been built with BWAUK support, to supply the pupils and teachers and the local community with water. This has been a big practical and moral boost for the community, enabling the school to expand and saving families having to travel miles each day in search of uncontaminated water, or risk water-borne diseases.

Men dig a water well in Kenema, Sierra Leone

The provision of clean water for schools was also a priority for the Kipkeino School in Eldoret, Kenya, and here BWAUK was able to help by supplying funds for a new electric water pump plus water purifiers. Before the installation of the new pump, each day at least three members of staff had to pump water using a cumbersome petrol pump; they have now been assigned to other tasks. The purifiers have meant that students and staff can now drink local water without fear of contamination.

Nearly two billion people drink water contaminated by human or animal faeces

Water contamination puts a break on development, and worldwide an estimated 1.8 billion people use water that is possibly contaminated by human or animal faeces. In sub-Saharan Africa, diarrhoea caused by untreated water is the one of the biggest killers, ahead of heart disease and HIV/AIDS.

World Water Day

Sustainable Development Goals and World Water Day 22 March

Clean water is crucial for every country’s development so No 6 of the Sustainable Development Goals is ‘Ensuring access to water and sanitation for all’. It is estimated that if Goal 6 is not achieved, by 2050 at least one in every four people will live in a country affected by chronic or recurring shortages of natural, clean water.

The importance of access to water is marked every year on 22 March – World Water Day. This year the emphasis is on ‘Nature for Water’, meaning the need to find nature-based solutions to harvest more water. This includes reconnecting rivers to floodplains, restoring wetlands, replanting trees to replenish forests, and improving the distribution and storage of ground water.

Helping Kenya’s orphans

Lewa Children’s Home in Kenya used natural solutions to preserve water, when it found that demand was outstripping availability. The Children’s Home complex which cares for up to 100 orphans, and has an onsite farm (Baraka Farm) that produces food for the orphanage, was using 65,000 litres a day. With increasing droughts as a result of climate change, staff at the home and farm realised they would not have enough water to ensure their long-term sustainability.

Boys at Lewa Children

So to improve water distribution and storage, Lewa was advised to adopt ‘water harvesting’ and BWAUK raised funding to put this into action. The supply of water from a local dam was improved by extending the drainage channels, water storage capacity was increased by raising the height of the dam wall and the two reservoirs’ holding capacity was improved by lining them with fine clay soil to reduce water evaporation and infiltration.

Newton in front of the water reservoir at the Baraka Farm

Since this work was carried out in 2011, the availability of more water has meant that Lewa Children’s Home has been able to accept more children, and now has a nursery and primary school. Baraka Farm’s use of sustainable water storage and soil management is also setting an example of sustainability to other farms and farmers in the region.

Daphne Davies is a Volunteer Journalist at Bread and Water for Africa UK.

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