During the early 1980s, guinea worm was endemic in a small community called Kwesi Addae in the Afram Plains South District of Ghana. The majority of its population of about 200 inhabitants were plagued with the burden of this disease. Moreover, the only source of drinking water was a small river called Dede. The river was not clean, but it was all the people had. This made combating Guinea worm more difficult for the community.
In the dry season when river Dede dried out, community members would construct hand-dug wells in the riverbed. When those wells were wet, owners would cover and lock them to avoid others from stealing the water.
A person looking for water could go two or more days without returning home from the ‘hunt’.
This greatly affected children’s education; Parents agreed with teachers to close school earlier than planned so that they could arrive home in time to support their families to search for this scarce resource.
The few who had wells in their homes were seen as the elite of the community. Others who were less fortunate would have to beg their neighbours for access to their wells. Mr. Christian Tawiah, a 59-year-old Water and Sanitation Management Team (WSMT) and community member recounted his memories of the difficulty the community faced “We had to beg the person to allow us to fetch from their well and after that, the person would lock it again. We were not allowed to go to someone’s house to request for their key to fetch water and if you were caught stealing water you would be severely punished”.
In 1994, World Vision successfully drilled the community’s first borehole. The borehole was integral to the eradication of guinea worm from Kwesi Adae and has provided safe drinking water to them for all these years. River Dede is used for farming purposes and washing.
With the presence of the borehole, children go to school on time, households have water and families stay together because they needed not to worry about water anymore.
“We can now boast of some of our children who are now nurses, teachers and profitable business people. This is because children no longer had to spend hours in search of water and abandon their books. They had time to study and their teachers were also happy to stay in the community and teach them due to the access to water”, said a community member.
The leader for the Muslims in the community shared his experience on impact. He said, ‘my father gave birth to many of us and most of us suffered diarrhea constantly due to the unclean water used to drink. Since the borehole, no child of mine has suffered from diarrhea’.
The 25-year-old borehole is still functional and serves over 800 community members with potable drinking water. It is inspiring to know that the impact of this borehole created the opportunity for two additional boreholes. Guinea worm in Ghana has since been eradicated and communities like Kwesi Addae continue to thrive because of the gift of clean water.