By Mustapha Sesay
Access to pure and affordable water to billions of people in deprived communities is being viewed by many as a key to development as lack of it is the primary cause of hunger, disease and poverty in most developing nations. Our daily and social activities can never be completed without the effective use of pure water.
With this as a watchword, there is the need for all to come together to raise awareness and influence policy makers on their fight to make water affordable to the billions dying due to poor water and sanitation related diseases.
This problem is acute in desert areas and West Africa where in urban areas and remote villages this issue is a thorn in the flesh and deserves the attention of all agencies working towards enhancing affordable and clean environment for all by 2015.
In West Africa, one organization that has taken the lead to help in awareness raising and striving towards this vision is the West Africa
Water Aid WAWA; an international non-governational organization working with journalists in the sub-region.
WAWA focuses on providing safe water supplies, sanitation and hygiene facilities, and related health programs for marginalized people in developing countries.
To achieve this goal, WAWA’s strategy is to provide permanent solutions to the sub-region’s water needs by implementing sustainable and appropriate systems to:
- Access, purify, and distribute new sources of safe water for rural villages;
- Build sanitation facilities, how to live in a clean environment, washing of hands after visiting the toilets, to create safe waste disposal while providing dignity to rural villagers;
- Build hygiene-related facilities, such as hand washing stations, for deprived communities, slums and even visiting schools with a complementary educational component;
It is believed that the safe drinking water projects must have some immediate life-changing impact, particularly to women and children who have to travel miles in the dry season to fetch water in the places when the source of water is dried up as a result of the drop in the water table. It is pathetic to see the colour of the water fetched.
As most cannot afford to have a water well that can store enough water for so long a time, there is the need for agencies working on affordable water to move into these remote areas and help in the construction of wells rather than just focusing on work in the urban areas. It is expected that these places are very paramount in the economy of the various countries as they are the bread baskets of States. So if we allow water related diseases to affect the farming population, this will adversely their abilities to produce the much need food to feed the growing population in the urban areas.
Successful Global Water projects utilize water and sanitation as a tool to create sustainable socioeconomic development in these poor rural communities.
In urban towns, Water Advocacy Network have been established with the help of local authorities, agencies and the media to spread the message of living in a clean environment with pure drinking water. In most places where water wells are created for local communities, special bye laws are drawn up by the local people with fines and penalties to ensure the surroundings are free from pollution and contamination. A monitor or head is appointed to monitor the equipment installed, the type of buckets used and all that it takes to ensure that the water is safe for drinking and other domestic purposes in a bid to ensure that WaterAid achieves its set goals.
A three year strategic plan has been put in place to ensure that journalists in the sub-region to help in the dissemination of water sanitation and hygiene in West Africa; a concern for all. It is the responsibility of media houses to inspect potential project sites to conduct water quality sampling as required, and to maintain communication with NGOs for immediate action; the media can also help local water-advocacy.
NGOs determine what equipment is essential to satisfy the requirements of a particular community. This information will provide vital information on water treatment technologies necessary to satisfy the requirements of a particular water project. In some instances, a demarcation point is indicated to keep the water pure at all times. With this, a wall is erected, and beyond this point strict regulation are put in place as a ‘No Go Zone’.
There is also the need for the media to help agencies working on water sanitation and hygiene to identify their felt needs, the major sources of funding, ideal places for the digging of wells and how to preserve water for the use of all.
Water projects should come from the people so that they too can effectively participate at all stages. For example the local people can contribute by providing gravel, sand and labour. In addition, all unskilled labor must be provided by the recipients of the water project for the entire duration of the project construction period. Community recipients may also contribute to the project by transportation support or other non-cash project assistance. There is all the reason for sanitation education to be given to the communities so that water treatment is provided from time to time to keep water borne diseases.
It is also necessary in the deprived places to give technical expertise to local water-advocacy NGOs during a project to help with project management, equipment installation and training. Water sanitation organizations like Water Aid West Africa must also listen to the people and try to address issues raised so that they are corrected quickly; water projects must be regularly monitored and maintain continuity with a project site through the local water-advocacy.as not all areas can be opportune to have wells – the few that are dug must be for the use of all irrespective of one’s tribe, creed, or political affiliation so that those left out are not forced to dig wells in affected locations.
As a way of ensuring quality water in slum areas, many have called for special training for youth groups in the different locations on how to man these places for sustainability. These youths are expected to teach others on sanitation and hygiene in their areas.
The situation of quality water in desert areas is very acute as the few wells that are available cannot cope with the demands of both the grazing cattle and the human beings which in return have resulted in the death of millions of cattle.
It is with this vision that WAWA is partnering with journalists in the sub region to ensure that the people in the remote villages have access to water. WAWA is working through local groups so they can develop the construction expertise and program management skills to build water-related facilities in their own country. With this approach, they send teams of volunteers to work in developing countries like many other organizations do. They provide technical training to the communities they work with so that they are able to manage the facilities themselves. Using largely local materials to build water and sanitation facilities improves the local economy and makes maintaining the facilities feasible.
Lastly, by working directly with local organizations, WaterAid West Africa is able to function through volunteers and maximize efforts and funding for the rural poor in the developing world.