Water, sanitation and waste | Blogs

  • Why I am writing this for World Toilet Day

    Gemma Hume

    November 19th, 2016

    Yesterday I told one of my friends that I was writing a blog for World Toilet Day and he laughed at me! “You’re kidding? There is actually a World Toilet Day? What will they think of next?”

    I was left speechless and offended by his response. But I guess he doesn’t understand the significance. He’s never had to worry about having nowhere to go (except being caught short in a traffic jam on a motorway). Decent toilets are just there…they are part of everyday life.

    World Toilet Day is an international day to draw global attention to the sanitation crisis. It’s about taking action to reach the 2.4 billion people living without a toilet. Toilets save lives, increase productivity, create jobs and grow economies.

    Devastating impact

    I’ve seen first-hand the devastating impact of not having a access to a decent toilet. Many of you will have seen it on TV when watching Comic Relief but nothing can prepare you for what it is really like.  The poverty and terrible conditions I witnessed during my visit to a slum called Nyalenda in Kisumu, Kenya, shocked me to the core. It’s hard to describe how utterly terrible the few toilets I saw were, or the stench that lingered in the air. Open sewage ran through the slum and waste lined small paths. The children played near the open sewage and walked around with bare feet.  I found it really difficult to deal with and battled with feelings of guilt, sadness and helplessness.

    In this slum, only 32% of the population have access to improved toilets; 25% use shared pit latrines and 30% defecate outside.

     

    Karen Bolo

    This is Karen Bolo. Her house has no toilet or running water. Her neighbourhood was hit by an outbreak of cholera and a ten-year-old girl from a neighbouring plot died. Karen says she was terrified that the same thing would happen to her children.

    “I have nowhere to go to the toilet at all here because we don’t have the capacity and I can’t afford to buy a new one. I have to ask for help from the neighbouring plots. For our children we have to put down a newspaper and ask the neighbours [who have pit latrines] if we can get rid of it there. It makes me feel awful because it is demeaning to have to ask for this.”

     

    Patrick

    Her neighbour, 65-year-old Patrick Odliambo, said land near to his home is covered in waste and flying toilets.

    “Around March/April, the rains come and wash the waste down the paths. Faeces flow with the storm water. During that time there are lots of cases of illness such as diarrhoea and malaria. Help does not come quickly; there are bad cases, especially for small children. Even now, my daughter is sick. She is vomiting and has a headache. This is from the environment. There are shallow wells which people drink from; they are not clean and people get sick.”

     

     

    Transforming lives with toilets

    But it is here that we have just launched a £1 million, six-year project funded by Comic Relief to transform the lives of 95,000 people by improving sanitation facilities in Nyalenda and another slum in Kisumu.

    This project will work with communities to provide 1,125 improved toilets. 2,500 new water pumps will also be installed through the pipe network.

    I’m really excited to see how the project progresses.

    Three years later following another project in Kenya…

    We have recently completed another sanitation project in Kenya – this time in Nakuru – to improve the quality of life for 190,000 slum residents by providing access to safe, hygenic toilets and hand washing facilities. And we worked with Anthony and other pit emptiers to improve their health, enable them to provide an essential service to their community and raise their status.

    Nakuru Kenya urban slum sanitation toilet

    I wrote a blog about Anthony Ndugu for World Toilet Day three years ago and I felt I needed to include him in this one, not only because the theme for this year’s World Toilet Day is ‘toilets and jobs’ because we caught up with him recently to find out how life has changed for him.

    Anthony would have to empty toilets with his bare hands. He suffered abuse and discrimination as a result of doing his job. People in his community would shun him and woouldn’t go anywhere near him. The pay was so terrible that it wasn’t enough to take care of school fees, household needs, rent and all his other needs.

    As part of the project, his team received a gulper so they no longer have to manually empty the latrines. They were also given protective clothing.

    “They are unique to us. We look professional – like a team. The local government has given us a certificate. We get more business and we are not harassed like we were before. My family are so happy; they are fed and my children can get an education.”

    I’m really proud about the work we do and I was thrilled last year when a Sustainable Development Goal was agreed to achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all by 2030 and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations.

    This goal is ambitious. We have a long way to go in achieving even basic sanitation for all, and only 14 years to achieve it. So that’s why we need your help.

    I am counting my blessings that I have a nice toilet to use and if you are too please consider helping people like Karen and Patrick get access to better sanitation, improve their health and restore their dignity. You could give a gift that transforms lives – like a life-saving loo!

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  • Hand washing Day in Kassala communities

    Fatima Mahmoud A/Aziz

    November 19th, 2016

    On 15th October each year, Global Hand Washing Day is celebrated to motivate and mobilise people around the world to improve their hygiene habits by washing their hands with soap at critical times throughout each day. Washing your hands with soap is the most effective and inexpensive way to prevent diarrheal and acute respiratory infections, which take the lives of millions of children in developing countries every year. In addition to using soap, proper sanitation awareness and drinking clean water are key to preventing disease.

    Handwashing day KassalaThe aims of Global Hand Washing Day are to: promote and support a general culture of hand washing with soap in all societies and raise awareness of the benefits of the simple practice of washing your hands with soap.

    There are many health problems in Kassala state due to the recurring floods. Sewage has contaminated drinking water and hence a large proportion of the state’s population has suffered from illnesses such as cholera and diarrhea. Many people, the majority being children, have died from these diseases.

    The most important solution to these problems is personal hygiene – a solution that has been marked as one of the outputs for the Water 4 East Project.

    Practical Action and the Sudanese Red Crescent  organised the celebrations for this year’s Global Hand Washing Day, with the slogan of ‘make hand-washing a habit’ being championed.  The celebrations took place in a village that had been affected by the floods, with over 50 houses damaged. However, the village is now benefitting from the Water 4 East Project.

    Handwashing day KassalaDuring Global Hand Washing Day, students and communities are taught the importance of washing their hands with soap and water at critical times. With support from the Ministry of Health, people now know and understand the proper way to wash their hands using both soap and water. Validating the awareness day, Ohaj Ahmed explained “we have washed our hands for many years but for the first time, we will follow these steps” and student Hassan Ibrahim told us “we used to not wash our hands with soap for months and did not know the importance of it, but this celebration is clarifying that.”

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  • Celebrating sanitation month

    Gemma Hume

    October 28th, 2016

    Clean water is something we take for granted but it is a basic human right that many are often denied.  There are 2.5 billion people in the world that lack access to improved sanitation and 748 million people that don’t have clean drinking water. Nearly 1,400 children die each day from diseases caused by lack of sanitation and unsafe water.

    In 2015, the United Nations introduced their new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty. Goal 6 is to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

    It’s Sanitation Month in Bangladesh and we have been celebrating our commitment to reaching the water and sanitation SDG through projects like ‘Delivering Decentralisation’ in Bangladesh, which you can find out more about here.

    Bangladesh slum pic

    The Delivering Decentralisation project supports people living in slums in Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka to influence local authorities and service providers in the delivery of improved urban services.

    We established slum community-based organisations, which brought residents together to identify their needs and priorities and build links with and influence local authorities. Through our training on good governance and strengthening of town-wide forums, our local teams changed the mind-set of government officials towards slums. They now integrate community action plans prepared by slum residents into city development plans and allocate budget for them to be delivered.

    The project also helped build roads, toilets, water supply points and introduce waste collection services, including turning faecal waste into compost and biogas.

    But we believe that lasting change is achieved not just by the direct delivery of projects on the ground but also by making knowledge available to the poorest people and in encouraging institutions and governments to adopt approaches that favour the poor.

    In Bangladesh we are working with the Prime Minister’s office to ensure the safe management of faecal sludge is included as a priority in the Government’s action plan for SDG 6. We have also been working with the Bangladesh government to develop a national framework for faecal sludge management, ensuring that human waste from pit latrines is disposed of safely, rather than being dumped in drains and water sources and causing diseases. This will create job security for informal waste workers and improve the health and wellbeing of at least 30 million people living in urban areas.

    As part of our work with the Bangladesh government we were given the responsibility of organising celebrations in three districts (Bagerhat, Faridpur and Satkhira) for Global Handwashing Day under the national sanitation month campaign. The day was celebrated with a rally and discussion session among different NGOs, government officials and civil society.

    Our team in Bangladesh lead a rally on Global Handwashing Day

    Our team in Bangladesh lead a rally on Global Handwashing Day

    Our other teams across the globe celebrated Global Handwashing Day as an opportunity to teach people across the globe a thing or two about good hygiene.

    Our Sudan team, for example joined students  and  communities at Twait School in Kassala to teach them  the  importance  of  washing  their hands with soap and water at critical times.

    Mohammed Tahir Adam Samra, a student at Twait school, said: “Now I can prevent my self from abdominal diseases  that cause me to absences from school, so I could get better grades on the exam.”

    We couldn’t help children like Mohammed Tahir without your support. Please help us to work with communities around the world to prevent diseases and save lives and spread the word that more needs to be done to give people access to clean water and sanitation.

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  • Block making machines in Sudan

    Mohamed Abdelwahab

    October 24th, 2016

    Practical Action has achieved a major breakthrough in the block-making industry in Eastern Sudan through development of intermediate technology in a rural context and active local participation.

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    In in collaboration with a local manufacturer, we have been able to carve a niche by transforming the old conventional version of the block-making machine into a revolutionary pre-cast block-making machine to match the development and sustainability needs of the Aqua 4 East project.

    The machine was developed with a moderate productive capacity in compliance with the requirements of the WASH sector and to address guidelines of the project.

    The hand-operated machine has been transformed primarily to be used for latrine construction. However, the machine can also be used for building high density blocks and bricks for other construction purposes.

    Its unique features are based on the following characteristics:14439662238_c81506fb8a_o

    • No vibration – instead high pressure is compensated to replace vibration.
    • Durability and corrosion resistance.
    • Soil stabilized bricks
    • Adjustable prefab different sized moulds which saves material (cement)
    • The hollow centre of the block narrows the wall thickness without compromising on wall stiffness
    • Environmentally friendly
    • Zero waste hence cost effective
    • Compact and lighter weight compared to previous versions14646213863_e01f270a7e_o
    • High safety
    • No need for electric power
    • Low maintenance
    • Block manufacturing can be turned into a profitable business for many people as no special skills are required for operating the machine.

     

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  • Make handwashing a habit

    So many global days are commemorated and at times you ask for what? After understanding the background, you will learn to appreciate why.

    On Saturday it was Global Handwashing Day – a campaign to motivate and mobilize people around the world to improve their handwashing habits by washing their hands with soap at critical moments throughout each day.

    handwshing in Zimbabwe using a tippy tap

    This simple action of handwashing, when practiced religiously can reduce the risk of illness and death from diarrhoeal diseases. With 1.7 million children dying from these causes each year, I certainly think that is a great reason to celebrate the day!

    In Zimbabwe we have continued to experience recurrent water and sanitation related diseases outbreaks despite efforts by various governments and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) to educate the community. In Bindura, Practical Action Southern Africa has used podcasting technology to raise water and sanitation hygiene awareness (WASH) and reduce diarrheal diseases.

    Through Practical Action’s WASH work, students and community members have been taught the importance of handwashing. Some were with the excuse that handwashing needs soap, but they were taught to use ash as it produces the same results as soap.

    students in Zimbabwe handwashing

    Health clubs were also formed to help spread the messages using podcasting, dramas or word of mouth, which have improved hygiene practices at individual, school and home level.

    Huge successes have been recorded on handwashing. Health club members together with family members now wash their hands before engaging in any activity; for example, before eating and after visiting the toilet. Washing hands using soap has now become a habit to many. People are no longer using the traditional method of washing hands in one dish. The use of jugs, soap and running water is now the order of the day.

    Water is poured over each person’s hands in turn and is then thrown away to avoid cross infection. Many of the participants from health clubs now know the correct handwashing practices.

    Most children used to miss school due to sickness like diarrhoea and Malaria, but after some teachings from school health masters on the importance of handwashing, this is now history.

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  • Global Handwashing Day: Making handwashing a habit

    Gemma Hume

    October 14th, 2016

    For many of us, washing our hands is a habit acquired from childhood. We unconsciously wash our hands after using the bathroom, eating and preparing meals.

    Teaching children how to wash their hands properly at an early age.

    One of Practical Action’s projects – providing handwashing facilities and teaching children in Peru how to wash their hands properly at an early age.

    But globally the hand washing habit has yet to completely solidify, mainly due to lack of soap and water or lack of awareness and understanding of its effectiveness in washing away illness-inducing germs and bacteria.

    That’s why on October 15, hundreds of thousands of schools, community groups, organizations, and governments will join together to celebrate Global Handwashing Day. It’s a global advocacy day dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding about the importance of handwashing with soap as an effective and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives.

    Diarrhoea is the second biggest killer of children under five years old.

    Every day, around 2,000 children die from diarrhoea. Simply washing hands with soap could reduce the number of these deaths by up to 50%, but many people are not aware of the link between hygiene and health.

    This year, Practical Action is using Global Handwashing Day as an opportunity to teach people across the globe a thing or two about good hygiene.

    Our team in Nakuru, Kenya, for example, is going to Hyrax Hill primary school to give 2,500 pupils and 500 community members a demonstration on how to wash their hands properly.

    Peter Murigi, Practical Action’s urban water, sanitation and hygiene specialist in Kenya, said: “We want to foster and support a culture of handwashing with soap, shine a spotlight on the state of handwashing around the world and raise awareness about the benefits of handwashing with soap at critical times.

    “This year’s theme for Global Handwashing Day is “Make handwashing a habit”. The event is a good opportunity to draw attention to the need for change, from individuals, families and governments and by asking for better hygiene policies and commitment to promote better hygiene practices.”

    In Bangladesh, we are partnering with other NGOs and the Bangladesh Government’s Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE) to celebrate the day both centrally in Dhaka and locally. In Dhaka, we’re taking part in a campaign rally and a meeting organised by the DPHE as a co-organiser. Locally, we are the lead organisation in celebrating the day in three districts: Faridpur, Satkhira and Bagerhat.

    Practical Action delivers significant water supply, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programmes and we are ambitious to do more. We promote the community-led sanitation approach with partners and local governments, demonstrating best practice and developing innovative technologies for clean water and waste management. And we work with national and city governments to ensure that poor people are included in sanitation planning.

    In Nakuru we have delivered an ambitious project, funded by Comic Relief, to improve the quality of life for slum communities of 190,000 people, by providing access to safe, hygienic toilets and handwashing facilities. You can find out more about that project here and find out what Jack Owino, a headteacher of a school in Kenya, has to say about the impact it has had on staff and children at his school.

    Jack Owino is the Headteacher of Eileen Ngochoch Primary School in Nukuru, Kenya.

    Jack Owino is the Headteacher of Eileen Ngochoch Primary School in Nukuru, Kenya.

    In Bangladesh we have been working with UNICEF in 500 communities and 200 schools across Dhaka and Sylhet to improve sanitation and promote a change in hygiene behaviour.

    Children at a school in Bangladesh using their new handwashing facilities.

    Children at a school in Bangladesh using their new handwashing facilities.

    It has changed the lives of 70,000 students. They are healthier, happier, are able to attend school more regularly and their performance at school has improved. Find out more in this blog by Alamgir Chowdhury in our Bangladesh urban services team.

    Projects like this depend on your support. Please help us to work with communities around the world to prevent diseases and save lives and spread the word that more needs to be done to make handwashing a habit.

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  • Sustainable access to water sanitation in Red Sea, Kassala and Gadarif

    Fatima Mahmoud A/Aziz

    September 28th, 2016

    One of Practical Action’s latest projects in Sudan is called ‘Sustainable access to water, and improved sanitation and hygiene behaviour in the three states of Red Sea, Kassala and Gadarif’.

    These three eastern states are among the poorest in Sudan.  The programme will bring sustainable water supplies, improved hygiene and better sanitation practices to 350,000 people.

    ZOA, in collaboration with IAS, Islamic Relief Worldwide, Plan, Practical Action and SOS Sahel (together with the Aqua4East Partnership), will deliver the project over 4 years using an Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) approach.

    map

    Specific Objectives:

    • To establish regional Water Resources Management Committees (WRMC) to represent key stakeholders, and facilitate the development of management plans through a participatory planning process, including analysis from experts on the feasibility of different options.
    • To provide secure access to safe water through renovation and construction of water points and groundwater collection infrastructure
    • To promote improvements in hygiene and sanitation practice
    • To document and share lessons learnt within and outside Sudan

    Project Outputs

    1. Inclusive mechanisms for IWRM  in targeted catchment areas
    • Raise awareness on the importance of water resources management
    • Establish Water Resources Management Committees (WRMCs) for selected catchment areas
    • Train WRMCs
    • Set up data collection systems
    • Conduct catchment-specific feasibility studies on options for water resources management infrastructure
    • Develop Water Resources Management Plans (WRMPs) for selected catchment areas

          2. Sustainable access to water for all user groups

    • Construct appropriate water infrastructures for groundwater collection
    • Renovate and/or construct appropriate drinking water facilities
    • Investigate and promote appropriate methods for household water treatments
    • Train WRMCs and WASHCs on the operation and maintenance of constructed water facilities
    • Establish local spare parts supply chains for water points

         3.  Behaviour change for improved sanitation and hygiene practices

    • Community-based sanitation and hygiene promotion
    • Hygiene promotion in schools
    • Construction of latrines in schools, health centres and public places
    • Support to sanitation-related small business

         4. Action learning to promote replication of IWRM

    • Exchange lessons learnt with other similar projects in Sudan
    • Develop technical papers
    • External seminars on sustainable WASH community based projects

    IWRM in SudanEffective development committees will be formed in three catchment areas across 22 different villages to improve community and grassroots involvement.

    With previous experience in the fields of food security and integrated water resource management, Practical Action was the first to champion the formation of these committees. It is important for local people to participate in the development of projects. Project Manager Emad said,  “Always you are the first and best”.

     

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  • Faecal Sludge Management in Odisha; The new sanitation challenge

    Healthy communities are the outcome of effective sanitation practices. Life and livelihood of people largely depends on their health and hence, sanitation holds a major role in it. Thinking beyond toilet, it’s time to ponder about treatment of the human waste and reuse it for the betterment of environment and a healthy life.

    As per the Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP 2011) India contributes to 58 per cent of the world’s population defecating in the open. And according to last census in 2011, an overwhelming 1.7 lakh households (48.33%) or 8.5 lakh people in the slums of Odisha defecate in the open.

    It is noted that, if 1 truck of sludge is exposed unsafely then it is equivalent to 5000 people defecating in open. In this context, if we go by the mission of toilet for all, there will be a huge amount of scarcity of water and also the faecal sludge will be the next problem we will have to face.

    Looking at the smart approach of our urban planners and urban development practitioners, now it is highly essential for all urban settlements to come up with solution to deal with faecal sludge. Having proper disposal and a well-planned faecal sludge management is highly needed and should be given much importance in the current context. What if we achieve the objectives of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, and we achieve hundred percent toilets in the state and country. And we do not have a sludge management policy which will lead the disposal of solid sludge into our river bodies and also open field. What are we aiming at!!! From open defecation to mass defecation, where are we heading?? Are building toilets will solve the problems or will create a new sanitation challenge??

    Let’s look beyond, while addressing a problem also let’s also address the broader sanitation challenges ahead. According to report by Odisha Water Supply and sewerage board, out of the 60 Lakh people staying in 23 Urban local bodies, 31 percent approx. are defecating in open and among people using toilets, only 49 percent households have septic tanks.

    This is again sad, that only 2 per cent liquid waste are treated in the state and 98 per cent either percolates to ground water or adjoining water bodies through surface drains without treatment. Waters from Rivers such as Brahmani, Daya, Kathajori can hardly be used for further drinking water purpose. Discharge from insanitary latrines, sewage flowing in drains, effluent from septic tanks, septage, and rampant open defecation are polluting the environment and having adverse health impacts to all of us residing in the state. At present no ULB other than Puri has any sewerage system inside the urban limits. This is shocking and we need to act upon it immediately.

    Here, comes the solution. The Faecal Sludge Management and treatment is the need of the hour. The untreated human waste what we call faecal sludge needs to be treated. Be it household level or institutional level, it needs to be treated and an appropriate system needs to be in place if we want healthy life and healthy community.

    There are few things which can major take away for an effective FSM policy and management. Decentralized FSM can be a good demonstration on these public utilities and Possibility to introduce decentralized FSM in newly developing areas, public institutions like schools, universities, hospitals, apartment etc is something which needs to be addressed by planning bodies. A conducive environment for private sector and the promotion of PPP model in FSM Private Sectors will create more scope for funding opportunity for infrastructural development. Onsite sanitation solutions seemed necessary to disseminate with sanitation stakeholders for their possible promotion.

    If we look at the government initiatives, now Septage management in nine cities / towns of the State (Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Rourkela, Sambalpur, Berhampur, Baripada, Balasore, Bhadrak and Puri has been included under ‘AMRUT’ launched by GoI. The draft DPRs for septage treatment facility in Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Rourkela, Sambalpur and Baripada has been prepared by OWSSB. Pre-requisite measures like land identification and acquisition are in progress. In order to regulate construction, cleaning, maintenance, treatment and disposal of septage in urban areas, government has formulated the Odisha Urban Septage Management Guideline 2016. Government has taken steps for procurement of 86 nos of 3KL Cesspool Emptier for 57 ULBs. All these information has been shared by OWSSB in public domain but still there is a long way to go.  There has been experiments faecal sludge treatment in countries like Nepal, Bangladesh, Philipines, Argentina, Ghana and Brazil etc. Even in India there have been few experiments in Bangalore. But no urban local body has come up with a proper plan of action for the same. However, in Odisha the state government has partnered with few philanthropic organisations and there has been two pilot projects of faecal sludge management are happening in Dhenkanal and Angul Municipality. If these proved efficient use of faecal sludge then Odisha can be the pioneer in setting up a system for disposal of human excreta.

    Further to add on, the amount of water being wasted in toilet, if the faecal sludge treatment is not combined with waste water management then, in coming days, there will be a huge scarcity of water. This may also lead to dearth of drinking water, which may break the nerves of any government creating challenge for the urban governance.  When a comprehensive sanitation plan is being developed, faecal sludge management must be integral part of every sanitation plan, which builds on on-site sanitation facilities. Sludge management is an indispensable part of the maintenance of these facilities. However, in reality sludge management is often neglected in sanitation planning because the need for it is less apparent than it is for the provision of water supply or toilet facilities. Even when a sanitation plan foresees a component for sludge management, its implementation is often impaired for the same reasons. Sanitation planners and decision-makers must recognize the importance of sludge management.

    As we have seen the adverse impacts of human excreta causing harm to human health and hygiene now, its time we must be proactive. With the campaigns of building toilets we must be tighten our belt for proper disposal mechanism. On the eve of toilet day, the urban sanitation planners must look at the mechanism of proper faecal sludge management.

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  • Juliet – the water entrepreneur

    Andy Heath

    September 7th, 2016

    “I’m so glad that Practical Action didn’t look down on me like everyone else. They picked me up and dusted me off.”

    Juliet lives in Kajiado, Kenya and Practical Action supported her by helping her to access a loan to start up her own water business. Juliet no longer has to struggle to earn a living by making charcoal which was back-breaking and dangerous work.

    In the mountains and forests where she used to burn charcoal to make her hand-to-mouth living, she encountered wild animals and bandits. She was once bitten by a snake and came close to standing on a poisonous viper. Her most frightening experience occurred when she was pregnant: she went up the mountain and was confronted by a man in a mask. She fled and he followed; “he wanted to rob and rape me”. Hungry and expecting a child, Juliet had to stop running. Fortunately, when she stopped she noticed three other men sat down – “they were my salvation”. The men stood up and ran after the attacker.

    IMG_2109

    Just before Juliet had her baby, she could not make it up the mountain to get her charcoal and it got stolen. After she had her baby, her husband brought the charcoal down from the mountain for her and Juliet then sold it. But it was not making Juliet enough money and so she had to supplement her income. She washed clothes for her neighbours but she still struggled to afford enough food to feed her family. “I reached my end. I’d even decided to buy poison and kill myself because I’d reached my end! No-one wanted to associate with us. I was dirty; I was so black [from the charcoal].” Juliet could not afford water to clean herself and local people said that she would “die soon” as she was so thin. The day after she gave birth to her youngest son, Juliet went out to sell charcoal. No one helped her and no one knew she had had a baby because she was so malnourished.

    Juliet recounts having a premonition that she should come back to her local town and start selling water. A friends’ mother told Juliet about a local mentor who was creating awareness of a loans scheme. Juliet carried on living in the bushes for a month burning charcoal as well as doing other jobs alongside to earn enough money for a loan. She stayed in the forests for days on end, to ensure that people didn’t steal her charcoal. She made 200 Kenyan Shillings (KSH) per day – equivalent to around £1.50. When Juliet went to clean for people, she took her baby with her and would have to leave him outside the house, making somewhere comfortable to lay him. Through her constant work, Juliet managed to save 2000 KSH to access the loan. Juliet built a savers group of 10 people – which was hard to build due to her status – and each member had to contribute: their group loan was 50,000 KSH.

    Juliet and her youngest son show off the water containers that have made their life comfortable

    Juliet and her youngest son show off the water containers that have made their life comfortable

    Juliet said: “There was no connection from the water company, so I couldn’t fill my tank before I bought it. My daughter and I saved money and we didn’t tell my husband. We got the connection and I surprised him! We managed to buy the water storage tank.”

    Once the water tank arrived, Juliet began to sell a lot of water which ensured that her local community had access to safe and clean water. The money she made from the water enabled Juliet to go back to the bank and ask for another loan to buy another tank. However, when they received the loan, Juliet’s husband took 12,000 KSH (almost £1,000) of it, as he wanted to go back to his home town to sell some land. He told Juliet he would buy a motorbike and set up a grocery shop for her to run, but he left her with his debt. “He was away for 2 months and he called me. He asked me for 2,000 more. I helped him because he was supposed to be setting up a better life for us.” Juliet did not hear from her husband for a further month and found out through his son that he had sold the land. When he did call, he was in a disco and told Juliet she was too old for him now. “He is 67 and has no teeth!” Juliet exclaimed.

    Juliet’s husband had received money from the land he sold and instructed the new land owner to call Juliet and warn her not to look for him. He went to Tanzania for a 2 week holiday and “surrounded himself with beautiful women because he had money. I continued running the business and saved enough money to buy the second tank”. Julia repaid the loan and now has her own savings.

    Juliet with her water storage tanks

    Juliet with her water storage tanks

    Her estranged husband found another woman and told her that he had a successful water business, that it belonged to him and that his ex-wife had stolen it. They arrived at Juliet’s home to take the business, but Juliet “chased them away with a machete.” The husband went to the police and reported the business stolen. Juliet went to the police station armed with her documents and explained what had happened. Her husband was told to go and never come back.

    Despite her struggle for money and being accused of stealing the business, Juliet is determined to succeed. She has even set up another new business, rearing poultry. “It was good that my husband left. I have gone to hell and back. He tried everything to make my life hell; he even tried to sell my water tanks… My husband left me with debt. He left me with a baby. But I am free, I am happy and I will not stop! I want my own land; I am working hard and praying hard.”

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  • World Water Week: water and jobs

    Gemma Hume

    September 2nd, 2016

    ‘Water and jobs’ is the theme of World Water Week this week and at Practical Action it’s a focus that we welcome because water is so integral to employment.

    The theme is focusing on how enough quantity and quality of water can change workers’ lives and livelihoods – and even transform societies and economies.

    Millions of water related jobs ensure that water is made available every day for domestic use, for removing our wastes, as well as for sustaining our production of food, energy and other goods and functions.

    But a lack of skilled water workers, due to a lack of investment in managing jobs in the sector, is holding back progress towards a world where everyone has access to safe water. Millions of people who work in water are often not recognized or even protected by basic labour rights. This needs to change.

    At the same time the daily livelihoods of millions of people depend on well-functioning and well-managed water systems.

    Growing their way out of poverty with water

    Elizabeth and Lindiwe Mukonje irrigate their farm using power from a micro-hydro scheme.

    Elizabeth and Lindiwe Mukonje irrigate their farm using power from a micro-hydro scheme.

    In Zimbabwe, farmers like Elizabeth and Lindiwe Mukonje have struggled to grow enough produce even to sustain their families as their fields are left barren by drought.

    They try to irrigate their land using pumps powered by diesel engines but they are expensive to operate and maintain and when they stop working, families are left in serious poverty and hunger.

    “We were failing to fully utilise our plot because of the faulty and old irrigation system that we had,” said Lindiwe.

    We worked with Oxfam on a project to help families survive future droughts, put food on their tables and sell surplus crops to earn a living by powering irrigation schemes through micro-hydro and solar-powered mini grids.

    As a result, Lindiwe said: “We realised a good income from the sale of the sugar beans and this has enabled us to send our children to school, buy food for the family and clothes for everyone.”

    Improving health and saving time

    For a poor person with no access to safe water at home, buying water can be a huge drain on their meagre salary. Many people have no choice but to compromise their health and earning potential by spending hours each day walking miles to collect water from unsafe sources. They are often sick from this water which impacts on their ability to work.

    Eva Nyamogo at the water kiosk she helped to install in Kitale, Kenya - giving her community clean water every day.

    Eva Nyamogo at the water kiosk she helped to install in Kitale, Kenya – giving her community clean water every day.

    We’ve been working with people like Eva Nyamogo in Kitale, Kenya – training and empowering her to work with her community and council to improve access to safe water and sanitation. Before, they had no access to clean drinking water. She said that people would have to walk four miles, every day; just to collect water from the stream, which was unsafe. People were often unwell and she explained that “they thought it was normal to be sick.” The community now have access to a water kiosk nearby providing clean water every day.

    Dying for a drink in Bangladesh

    In Bangladesh, every day 20 million people are drinking water contaminated with naturally-occurring arsenic. Each year 46,000 of them die.

    Terminal illnesses caused by arsenic poisoning include liver, kidney, bladder and skin cancer, lung disease, nerve damage and cardiovascular disease.

    The vast majority of people who suffer from arsenic poisoning live in poor rural communities and drink from shallow tube wells, built in the 1970s. Many of the wells have not been tested for arsenic and people using them have a choice between paying for bottled drinking water, which is prohibitively expensive for the vast majority of families, or take the risk of drinking from an untested source.

    With your support we can help more people like Liza, who are living amongst the effects of contaminated water.

    With your support we can help more people like Liza, who are living amongst the effects of contaminated water.

    Liza Akhter, 21, from Bagerhat said: “We are surrounded by water, but there is no water for drinking. This area is arsenic affected. If you collect water from the shallow wells then you would get arsenic water.

    “I have heard there are people who have been suffering from diseases caused by arsenic. The thing about arsenic is you get poisoned slowly so you don’t know who has been affected around you already.”

    Practical Action launched its new project after staff witnessed people they work with battling symptoms of arsenic poisoning, but unaware of what was causing their illness, and powerless to do much about it when they were.
    With your help, we are:
    • Providing clean and safe drinking water – simple technologies such as arsenic removal plants and rainwater harvesting can help communities access clean water
    • Educating people on the health implications of drinking contaminated water
    • Testing water points so that communities can see which water is contaminated

    If we are to achieve the Global Goal of water, sanitation and hygiene for all by 2030, or indeed Global Goals on decent work and economic growth, on health for all, we need to recognise that better water for all workers is essential – and now is the time to act.

    With your support we can help more people like Liza access safe, clean water.

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