NLS Supports The Water Works Charity

NLS Supports The Water Works Charity

Water Works was one of the charities supported in Nottingham Liberal Synagogue’s Kol Nidre 2014 Appeal. In particular, the money raised assisted the 25 households in the Malawian village of Kauma meet their water, sanitation and hygiene needs. The following tells the story of Water Works.

Simon Cohen, son of Jeff, founded Water Works in 2008, while he was studying Civil and Environmental Engineering at Edinburgh University. The charity aims to reduce the prevalence of water borne disease by helping to bring safe drinking water and hygienic sanitation to village communities in Malawi. Diarrhoea, caused by drinking contaminated water, contact with excretia and poor hygiene practice is one of leading causes of death of children under five years old in Sub-Saharan Africa.

People in Malawi lack safe water not because the water isn't there, but because they cannot access it. Where hand-pumps have been supplied, sustainability is not achieved as they fall into disrepair. Spare parts are not readily available or are too expensive. There is also a dire shortage of latrines. Almost half of the households in the area near Lilongwe, where we work, do not have a latrine and practise open defecation. Some people attempted to build a latrine using log sanitation platforms, as constructing the platform out of concrete is not affordable. However, termites attack the logs and the latrine collapses; in some cases, children have fallen into the latrines.

well before

Children collecting water from a swamp

Water collection is done predominantly by women, taking girls away from school and women from pursuing more productive endeavours. The safety of women and girls without a household latrine is also at risk, as they forced to go out in open areas, making them more susceptible to sexual harassment and violence.

The position of women is illustrated by one of our case studies, which describes the pre-project experience of Rhoda, a 23 year old married woman from the village of Kazimba. Rhoda collects water from an unprotected village well, which is 100 metres away from her house. She lifts the water with a 5 litre bucket attached to a rope from a depth of 10 metres. She makes 3 trips each day, carrying 20 litres of water. It takes her the whole day. The household has no toilet. Rhoda and, her 4 year old daughter, Lucia defecate in the bush. She said “It is not safe to defecate in the bush. I am afraid, children can easily implicate a woman and a man they have seen coming from the bush to have planned sex intercourse. This can lead to break-up of marriages”.

To address the lack of sustainability and affordability of conventional water pumps, our Malawian water team work closely with the villagers themselves to build water pumps using locally available and low cost materials. They are much easier to maintain and at under £60 is a fraction of the cost of the conventional, commonly used Afridev pump (at over £400).

Increased access to safe drinking water will only improve the health of the community if combined with improved sanitation facilities and hygiene practice. Therefore, in addition to supporting communities improve their water resource, Water Works also supports households to construct latrines and hand-washing systems and runs hygiene awareness programmes.

Since 2009, Water Works has assisted 56 Malawian villages to construct and maintain water pumps, providing safe drinking water for over 11,500 people; supported over 1,400 families to build hygienic latrines; helped a primary school with over 300 students to build two blocks of latrines; run hygiene awareness sessions for over 2,000 people. Surveys completed by Water Works have found that the projects have helped to reduce the percentage of children under five suffering from diarrhoea in the previous 2 weeks from 26% to 12%.

latrine completed

Villager using handwashing facility outside newsly constructed latrine

The benefits which access to clean water and hygienic latrines bring are described by the chief of a village called Chimombo. The village did not have a well; their source of water was swamps in their fields. A neighbouring village denied them access to water from their borehole, because of a bitter dispute over the ownership of farming land. The chief, who is a woman, told us: “As Village Head we now are respected because we have our private toilet. People saw us going to the bush to defecate and I am quite sure others have seen us in our hiding places, but could not say a word because we are respected as their leaders.”

She continued, “The village members have access to clean water within the village and we are managing it. We promise to take care of the water point and we will continue to maintain it. We were treated like outcasts by our neighbours. They never thought one day Water Works would restore our dignity as human beings.”

Jeff Cohen - February 2016

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