By Alpha Nsemwa - Senior Communication and Public Engagement Officer
On many occasions, we have heard it said that ‘water is life’. Water bodies do not merely add beautiful balance to the scenery of our planet; they also represent a vital resource for our survival. Therefore, it is easy to justify that water is truly life.
In Tanzania, like everywhere else, water is key for domestic purposes, the economy (such as a source of power in the energy sector), and in the health and hygiene sector, water also plays an important role. Unfortunately, water access has been recognised widely as one of the most challenging areas of development in Tanzania despite various strides by institutions and stakeholders to alleviate the challenge.
Inadequate or limited access to clean and safe water remains a challenge for many Tanzanians. Only 30.6% of households in Tanzania use recommended methods of water treatment and only 22.8% have proper hand-washing facilities (Ministry of Health report, 2019). Poor sanitation is estimated to cause 432,000 diarrhoea-related deaths annually and it is a major factor in several Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), including intestinal worms, schistosomiasis and trachoma. Poor sanitation also contributes to malnutrition (WHO, 2019)
World Vision is working to respond to this challenge by implementing a range of interventions designed to increase access to safe water, educate communities in the effective management of water resources, and ensure that adults and children understand and follow good personal hygiene practices.
According to the government of Tanzania, the target of the National Development Vision 2025 for the water and sanitation sector is universal access to safe water by 2025 through involvement of the private sector, empowering local government and communities, and promotion of broad-based grassroots participation in the mobilisation of resources, knowledge and experiences, with a view to stimulating initiatives at all levels of society.
With that taken into account, various efforts have been employed to ensure sustainable availability of water, such as the creation of the 2022 National Water Policy, established to provide a comprehensive framework for sustainable development and management of the Nation’s water resources, which had among objectives to address cross-sectoral interests in water, watershed management and participatory integrated approaches in water resources planning and to ensure full participation of beneficiaries in planning, construction, operation, maintenance, and management of community-based water supply schemes in rural areas.
Last year, World Vision launched its five-year strategy (2021-2025) which aligns with the Government’s 2025 Development Vision. In the strategy, water is an area of a primary focus. To date, the organisation has reached more than 3.7 million participants across its various area programmes countrywide.
Speaking earlier this year during a handover event for various completed development projects, Handeni District Commissioner, Ms Siriel Mchembe commended World Vision for its efforts towards building sustainable water facilities which have been very efficient and effective in helping alleviate water problems in the community. “I am aware of the activities that World Vision is achieving, through a tremendous team of staff and a steady relationship with our Government. There have been great projects that have succeeded in making life better for our community; the water sector is one of those areas, and at its greatness.”, she remarked.
“It is recognised by the people that World Vision has done wonders yet again building hand-washing facilities, toilets and installing water taps in villages. It is an inspiring act and it shows a road map of where we are going with solving water challenges. Thanks for taking us on a milestone journey; we are forever grateful”, she further added.
Before World Vision’s interventions in Kwamsisi area, there were many difficulties linked to water. For a long period of time, children were particularly affected by the impact of water scarcity. In many areas, girls dropped out of school due to lack of toilets in schools, which also lacked proper water infrastructures that could be useful during girls’ menstruation period.
“Before World Vision’s interventions in our school, we had many challenges with water being the major problem. We have witnessed a number of more than 1,200 [students] being forced to share merely six latrines, which was a major health risk”, says Iddy Chambo, the headmaster at KwediKabu Primary School. Iddy says after World Vision, things have changed, there is a proper water infrastructure in their school, they have modern toilets, hand-wash facilities, and they have started planting trees, with water also used to care for the environment.
Introducing water facilities in school paves way for improvements in the area of health and sanitation, but for the children in Kwedikabu Primary School it is also a chance to develop income. Through the establishment of water infrastructures in the school premises, children have formed an environment club which has initiated a vegetable garden, from which they sell and get about 5,000 TZS (approximately 2 USD) per day.
“Before World Vision, we didn’t have proper water infrastructures in our school; we had to come with water from home. Our toilets were not clean, there was a high risk for eruption of diseases and we had stomach aches all the time”, testifies Allen who is a Standard Six student at Kwedikabu Primary School.
Allan, who is the chairman of the students’ environment club, also adds that: “Thanks to World Vision, all that is history! We have managed to get proper hand-washing facilities and good modern toilets. But we have also started a students’ environment club. We own a space in our school from which we plant vegetables, and we sell them to our parents. The money that we save for our big farming projects, we intend to use for a tractor for cultivation.”
Women are always among the first victims to be affected by water challenges as they are tasked with fetching water in several families. This often means being forced to walk long distances. For women like Magdalena, though, water scarcity is now just a memory in her life, thanks to World Vision.
“I am grateful to World Vision because before they brought water to our village, we used to walk for a long distance to search for water in very difficult conditions such as dams and canals which were not safe”, she says. “We are grateful to World Vision for helping us with water; these projects have helped us and we currently use less time to fetch water and there is time now for us to take care of our children. We have gardens at our homes, which helps us to get good vegetables. We don’t have to depend solely on the rainy season to farm. I personally feel good that water is just a minute away from my home compound. Thank you, World Vision, for the water project!”
These water projects are not only targeted at improving the education sector or the lives of women alone; they also involve and understanding the importance of partnering with religious leaders. It has been an important task for water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) teams to form relationships with religious leaders who have been helpful in addressing the proper use of water infrastructures that World Vision is building in communities. They have also been reinforcing principles of equal sharing of water in their local communities without bias and neglecting monitories.
“Water is for all”, as Burhani Abbass who is the Bunda Mosque Sheikh and Chairman of the religious Council Committee in Korogwe District, says. “In our committee, we have been trained by World Vision in many areas. Before, we didn’t know many things about sanitation and health requirements. But after getting the exposure from World Vision, we have been on the frontlines of addressing the issue of environmental conservation. We are now ambassadors who stand side-by-side with other Government officials in our areas to make sure we protect water sources, including those installed by World Vision.”
He further explains how he and other faith leaders have managed to use their platform to address the issue of having modern toilets, since there is plenty of water in the area currently. “We educate people during our holy mass; we have reached out to more than 100 families and managed to convince them built modern toilets. We are grateful to World Vision for their guidance to us. For now, we have enough toilets and water. Women had long suffered from walking long distances in search of water, but now they are saved from the dangers of walking at night in search of the precious resource. We are grateful!”, says Sheikh Burhani Abbass.
As we embark on our journey to implement our five-year strategy, we are determined to spread the joy and happiness of God. Therefore, we are encouraged to keep our heads high as we keep on serving the most vulnerable people, so that we can share more echoes of success.