Our chosen partner this month is Village Water, which provides hygiene education and sustainable water for rural villages in western Zambia. Diarrhoea is one of the leading causes of infant mortality in poor countries and a major contributor to malnutrition, throughout the life span. The safe disposal of human excreta, coupled with basic hygiene practices, such as hand washing with soap, are key to breaking the cycle of disease transmission. Only protected shallow wells with manual water pumps are installed. These allow the people to draw uncontaminated water from below ground.
The long term impact of technically simple measures about sanitation and basic hygiene are enormous. Children can wash regularly and good hygiene practice is maintained, thereby avoiding the life-threatening diseases caused by insufficient clean water and poor hygiene practice. Families no longer go hungry as the water helps to grow plentiful supplies of nourishing food. A local source of water gives village women the time to create their own local enterprise and children the time to attend school. Sustainable water supplies help farmers to harvest crops throughout the year, instead of the single crop reliant on the rainy season. Surplus food can be sold at local markets. Money made through their enterprise enables families to pay for medicines and an education for their healthy children.
Key to the work of Village Water is the groundwork carried out by local fieldworkers. These are professional community workers, who encourage local people to organise themselves by forming a Village Water & Sanitation Committee. This commitment proves if the village has the vitality to take ownership of the well and pump seriously. The villagers pay a small start up fee for the well of around £20 and the Committee undertakes to supply long term running costs. Such ownership is essential to ensure sustainability, as it permits the gradual withdrawal of external support. Village Water works with local Committees to install and maintain water pumps and latrines and offers training to support local health educators. Once the work is complete and sustainable then help is offered afresh in a new locality.
Our contribution this month will purchase seven India Mark II hand pumps. These pumps will bring safe water to 1,190 people.