Thursday, October 22, 2009

The challenges of a water NGO

Some of the remote villages that are hard to reach are often the last to receive basic services such as sanitation or clean water. A story in All Africa today profiles one such village in Mozambique that has been drinking from a river for generations. The question is, why has this gone on for so long?

From this IPS story that we found at All Africa, writer Jessie Boylan asks some water NGOs why this goes on so long.

WaterAid is an international NGO that works with communities to insall wells, water pumps, and composting latrines. They have a range of basic hand pumps which are cheap enough for communities to afford, and quick and easy to fix.

The NGO claims to have helped 270,000 people gain access to water across Mozambique, and has been working in Niassa Province since 1995.

There are several factors which contribute to water, hygiene and sanitation problems in the province, says Heike Gloeckner, WaterAid's Southern Africa regional programme officer.

"Broadly I would say that the issues we are facing are: water tables are decreasing, population is increasing (in some areas) and topography is making it very hard for our partners to access the aquifer for drilling a borehole," she says.

WaterAid's technical support manager, Erik Harvey, says the sinking water table means communities are forced to rely on outside support to reach deeper more reliable water reserves.

"Most communities have existing survival strategies that can simply be reinforced. Most have basic wells that, with very little effort, can be protected, (lined with bricks, raised above ground level, closed with a lid, used with a single bucket and rope as opposed to many)," he adds.

"In the absence of this, basic filters can be made with layered cloth, or drinking water, particularly for babies, elderly and the ill, can be boiled."

When asked why no one has yet reached villages like Mcondece, Mtepwe and Magachi, Harvey responded, "The process of prioritisation and community selection is normally undertaken by the government with some assistance from WaterAid staff.

"WaterAid's funding is limited," says Harvey, "and we have, where possible, focused on choosing districts that have historically had the lowest coverage levels.

"The key here is to get government to take up our learning, to combine the efforts of all role-players and funds in the sector to reach the unreached villages. WaterAid alone just does not have the resources to reach everywhere."

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