By LAURA TESTER
For nearly everyone living in the Western world, clean water and toilets are necessities.
In rural East Africa, they’re luxuries.
A Better World Canada is making steps to change that scenario in Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania.
Identified as a priority project for 2017, it aims to add at least 100 new toilets, three deep water wells and five water catchment systems. Canadians can finance a toilet for $950 that will go a long ways towards helping schoolchildren while anywhere between $25,000 and $60,000 Cdn can fund a water well for an entire community.
“We don’t face water problems so we often aren’t sensitive to what other people face in other countries,” said co-founder Eric Rajah. “We’re finding that water is the root cause of many problems. If we can deal with that, we’re doing really well.”
The World Health Organization/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme’s 2015 update of its Progress on Sanitation and Drinking Water report shows that Kenya has made “little or no progress” in meeting sanitation targets. However, it’s made “good progress” regarding drinking water sources.
UNICEF reports that some 5.6 million out of nearly 47 million Kenyans have no toilet. It also reports that more than 17,000 Kenyans were hospitalized due to cholera between December 2014 and August 2016.
A Better World is helping to bridge those gaps in rural areas where open defecation is common and clean drinking water is hard to find.
Launched in May of 2016, this project has already completed 75 toilets and 12 water catchment systems. Another 32 toilets, five water catchment systems and at least three deep wells were set to be done by June 2017.
Toilets are added to existing schools. Others are built as schools are constructed which is typically happening in Rwanda, Tanzania and also Afghanistan.
The drilling wells, which run 61 to 91 metres deep, bring clean water permanently to 5,000 to 6,000 people. Since A Better World began installing wells about seven years ago, about a dozen have been completed.
Water catchment systems are installed on school property and are used for cooking, cleaning, and drinking. Cost is about $1,200 Cdn. A Better World sponsors about 40 schools in Kenya alone.
The toilet and sanitation project will continue next year and for the water wells, beyond that.
“I think by (May 2018) we will have had all our toilets caught up in our schools and clinics,” said Rajah. “We think we’ll be done on the water catchment systems by the end of this year. So all of our schools will have some form of water by the end of this year.”
Timelines haven’t been set on the water wells.
“We can do 30 water wells over the next 10 years easy,” he added.
Drought has been widespread in Kenya recently. Fortunately, this drought didn’t cause problems for communities where ABW installed water wells.
Drought conditions are improving, Rajah added.
Rajah said they know they’re helping children get healthier with clean, drinking water at school. Students can also take some water home where often there’s a lack of quality water too.
He’s seen a noticeable difference at the community of Talek within the Maasai Mara.
“They were treating up to 40 per cent of patients for water-borne diseases and now they’re down to five per cent,” said Rajah.
Clean water and new toilets were added to ABW’s two schools and three clinics at Talek. Three deep water wells were installed there seven years ago for the community.
With clean water, the Maasai tribe was seeing fewer of its cattle die off. Residents could use water to quench their gardens.
Rajah said they’re focused on rural areas, including the Kericho district where many experience difficulties accessing clean water.
“Government hasn’t put a priority on it — and it’s expensive,” Rajah added. “There’s no central water system. It all has to be dug and piped.”
“Clean water is the key to everything.”
With improved sanitation and water conditions thanks to A Better World, thousands of East Africans are facing a much brighter future.
ABW has raised at least $30,400 for toilets by June 1. It aims to have a further $50,000 by the end of 2017.
It’s raised enough money for its 2017 target of five catchment systems. ABW has further collected $40,000 for one water well, with more dollars needed for the second water well.
Despite a national economic downturn, Rajah said they’ve seen people continue to give generously for the toilet and sanitation project.