A new water-supply system is constructed in Njilah, Cameroon, as a local common initiative group works with UMCOR's support.
Bengoh Women Common Initiative Group
Cameroon: Basic measures, big results
By David Tereshchuk*
June 26, 2012—Even after seven decades of UMCOR relief work, it can still be little short of astonishing to see what a huge impact on any community in need the simplest of remedies can make.
Though it is only halfway through its implementation, the Njilah water and sanitation program supported by UMCOR in Cameroon, West Africa, has already brought enormous change to the lives of local people.
The program is the creation of the Bongeh Women Common Initiative Group, a civil society organization devoted to upholding Cameroonian women’s and children’s rights. Over the past two decades its rural membership has been troubled by a bad and worsening supply of potable water.
As local spring sources became polluted—largely through the increasing encroachment of animals fighting for access to less and less water—human diseases of the waterborne kind, like cholera and river blindness, were the inevitable result. And as the springs became less reliable, local people had to trek long distances to fetch water from safer sources.
With a grant of just $10,000 from UMCOR’s Global Water and Sanitation program, the group began a very basic program of building new catchment and inspection tanks; setting up new, well-protected catchments for springwater, chambers for collecting rainwater, and safe, new storage tanks; and erecting public washbasins.
Just as important was a community education program to emphasize the need to continually protect the new system. Local churches, schools, and other voluntary organizations have also been enrolled in support of the entire project.
Altogether a total population of 25,000 is being served by the improvements.
The building work and the laying of pipelines that has gone along with it have involved just about everyone in the community—men, women, and children; young and old. Farming work in the fields has continued, of course, but the water project has taken a priority alongside those daily efforts. “Water is life,” the group has proclaimed
Group members talk enthusiastically now about the “joy and happiness” that has accompanied the work. They say it is a “dream come true” that villagers can “quench their thirst with fresh, potable water.”
And still the work needs to continue. For 2013, the construction program will include building and bringing online an additional water storage tank.
Rebecca Dobbins, UMCOR’s manager of International Disaster Response, describes the project as an impressive “leap of faith” and says she has found it “pretty amazing, how it is working out.”
Your gift to Water and Sanitation, UMCOR Advance #3020600 will help Cameroon’s Bongeh Women Common Initiative Group’s work, and other water-related projects around the world.
* David Tereshchuk is a journalist and media analyst, and a regular contributor to www.umcor.org.