Water, sanitation, and hygiene, known together as WASH, are essential for good health and well-being. Water is used not only for drinking but also for bathing, cooking, cleaning, waste disposal, and agriculture. Yet, 783 million people around the world do not have reliable access to clean drinking water and even more people lack access to water for agriculture and other household tasks to meet their everyday needs. Around the world, 2.4 billion people lack adequate sanitation facilities. This lack of access to basic services results in more than 1,000 children dying daily from diseases, many of which are entirely preventable when WASH is addressed and sustained at the community level.
Many of Global Ministries’ WASH programs are accomplished through grants coordinated by its Global Health unit, supporting the work of partners, while others are implemented through the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) country offices. Grants support integrated programs whose solutions account for the need for behavioral changes while increasing access to improved water sources and sanitation facilities in the most vulnerable and disadvantaged communities. Every US $1 spent on water, sanitation, and hygiene generates US $4.30 in increased productivity and decreased health-care costs.
UMCOR partner in Pakistan, Gospel Life International Ministries, implemented WASH education trainings; installed hand pumps, handwashing basins, and flush/pit toilets; and formed six water management committees. Here, a couple of beneficiaries test a new water pump. PHOTO: GOSPEL LIFE INTERNATIONAL MINISTRIES
Working with Partners
Global Ministries’ WASH program works with partners in the most disadvantaged countries for WASH within the UMC network, particularly in locations with repeated cholera or diarrhea outbreaks. The program prioritizes institutional WASH support to schools, health facilities, and churches to maximize the impact of the projects across a whole community.
The WASH program supports projects implemented by local organizations whose staff and project personnel, including local engineering companies, are recruited locally to enable project sustainability and maintenance. Priority is extended to partners who can engage with selected communities for three to five years to build partnership and provide opportunities for yearly evaluations to assess progress.
Global Health WASH grants extend beyond the UMCOR country offices to partners around the world. In 2016, in addition to UMCOR country office projects, WASH projects were funded in Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Guatemala, Côte d’Ivoire, Malawi, Mozambique, Uganda, and in the Red Bird Mission in Kentucky.
Clean Water, Sanitation
The WASH program helps communities rehabilitate existing water infrastructure or develop new sources of clean water and may also provide water filters or encourage new behaviors for treating water, such as solar disinfection or chlorination. Community members receive support and training so they can maintain their own water supply. Another priority is to help communities build improved and appropriate toilets that will be safe and hygienic for years to come, paying particular attention to the needs of women and their menstrual cycle needs.
Simple actions can make a huge difference to people’s health. Only 19 percent of the world’s people wash their hands with soap after contact with feces. WASH helps to promote essential self and community hygiene practices, including hand washing and safe water storage, to keep disease at a distance and protect families so they can live healthier lives.
In Zimbabwe, UMCOR Equips a Community to Ensure Safe Water
By Admire Mukorera*
For 10 years, the borehole at Kafura Secondary School served as the main clean water source for the Kafura community in Mashonaland East Province in Zimbabwe. But when the borehole broke down for four months, the school and many local families were forced to seek water at unprotected sources.
The loss of the water collection point was compounded by the effects of pervasive and persistent drought, which is happening across Africa. Already, most boreholes were yielding less water than expected, and in some cases, were running dry.
Kafura borehole repairs completed—Mashonaland, East Province, Zimbabwe. PHOTO: UMCOR ZIMBABWE
Community members needed to get the Kafura Secondary School borehole back up and running. They soon received news that the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), in partnership with the District Development Fund (DDF), a district government technical office, chose the Kafura School borehole as the site for a practical training of village water pump caretakers.
The long downtime of the Kafura Secondary School borehole had been partly caused by the absence of a trained water-point committee in Kafura to oversee the borehole and manage repairs. UMCOR revitalized the local committee and facilitated a training to equip its members with resources for the borehole’s rehabilitation. The Kafura borehole was included as a practical session during the village water pump caretakers training.
Joel Musona, one of the trained committee members, expressed the community’s gratitude to UMCOR and DDF for alleviating their plight. He explained that family members had had to wake up at 4 a.m. to queue up at an unprotected well, which had low yield. The task most often fell to the women and girls in the family. Starting out when it was still dark, they had to travel more than six miles to reach the closest water sources.
After four months of hardship, students, teachers, and community members celebrated together as they saw the first drops of clean, safe water welling up once again from the Kafura borehole.
*Admire Mukorera is project engineer for UMCOR’s country office in Zimbabwe.
Improving Health in Nicaragua
By Rob Bell*
Mrs.Teófila Rivas is a single mother in Payacuca, Nicaragua, with three children whom she has raised alone since they were quite small. “My childhood was tough,” she admitted. “I didn’t learn to read and write. I only went a few days to school. It was a three hour walk for us in those days. Also, the teacher made me clean the school and hit me. That’s why I dropped out.”
The Rivas family is one of about 100 in the Terrabona region of Matagalpa that benefited from an UMCOR partnership with El Porvenir, a nonprofit agency working in Nicaragua to improve the standard of living of rural families through water, sanitation, health education, and watershed management projects. Through an UMCOR grant, El Porvenir has been able to work with two communities, Payacuca and Ocotillo, to help them construct 100 household latrines. In addition, the families also received training on the use of the new facilities and how to improve their hygiene practices overall. El Porvenir provided training for the Potable Water Committees as well as training for trainers, who passed on what they learned to community members. Hygiene and environmental training continues in the communities, and train-the-trainers are given incentives each year to motivate them to continue.
The Rivas family is one of about 100 in the Terrabona region of Matagalpa, Nicaragua, that benefited from an UMCOR partnership with El Porvenir, a nonprofit agency working to improve the standard of living of rural families through water, sanitation, health education, and watershed management projects. PHOTO: EL PORVENIR
Teófila Rivas explained to El Porvenir staff that her family endured sad times before the pit latrines were installed. “We had to carry water for about three hours, and we had to get up very early,” she said. “The trail was difficult and we walked barefoot besides. When we got to the little creek, there were often others there collecting water and we had to wait. Sometimes, there wasn’t enough water for all of us and we had to drink water from a stream, even though we knew the water was dirty.”
Very few people had latrines, so the outdoors was the only option for bodily elimination. Women and girls suffered the most, worried for their safety. Contamination from human waste affected water sources and sickness was common.
Today, thanks to El Porvenir, UMCOR, and their own contributions, the families of Payacuca and Ocotillo have running potable water and latrines. The community is more hygienic, safer, and healthier. Teófila Rivas is a happy woman now that she has clean water and a latrine in her humble home.
At one time, Rivas’ dream had been to be a teacher, which she never realized. However, today she serves her community as the local health promoter, teaching people about the importance of hygiene and living in a clean community. “You can’t give up,” Rivas said, “you need to keep struggling in life for a better future.”
*Rob Bell is the executive director for El Porvenir in Managua, Nicaragua.
Better Hygiene in the Cabaret Community
As part of its efforts to build the capacity of communities to focus on improving environmental hygiene, UMCOR Haiti provides hygiene training to women’s groups throughout its WASH program. During 2016, UMCOR Haiti WASH implemented successful programs in the Cabaret area, helping women’s groups promote hygiene in their communities. In addition, sanitation tools and resources were provided to the community in order to implement good and safe sanitation practices.
One women’s group leader stated: “I now have a feeling of being useful in my community because I have received hygiene training. I now know how to prevent diarrhea and other diseases in my daily life and in the lives of other community members.”
Children and youth of Espoir School in Cabaret, Haiti, gather for the dedication of the new UMCOR-built latrines. In total, the UMCOR project, finished in November 2016, included a sanitary block with an eight-cubicle latrine, a hand washing station, and a reservoir for drinking water. PHOTO: UMCOR HAITI
A school director from Espoir School, one of the Haitian national schools that UMCOR works with, thanked UMCOR for a new latrine facility with eight stalls, a hand-washing station, and a reservoir for drinking water. “Thanks a million to UMCOR for the great job it is doing in Haitian communities,” he said, “especially for the big new sanitation facility in our school.”
*The UMCOR Haiti country office has operated since 2010, enacting both short-term disaster response and long-term development strategies with partners in the country and international faith-based agencies.
Clean Water, Less Illness in Sudan
It is just 7:00 a.m., and Nybol, a mother of three, is already in the queue at the Zamzam Water Yard in the town of Adilla in East Darfur state, Sudan. She is waiting her turn to fill her jerry cans with clean, fresh water. Despite the early hour, she is happy to be there because she knows this water is safe for her family.
Not long ago Nybol, who arrived in Sudan just six months earlier, had to travel to the village of Adilla West to fetch water from a borehole there. “It took us two hours to go and come back with one 20-liter jerry can of water,” she recalls.
Besides being far away, the water from the borehole was unsafe, as both humans and animals used the same trough. “We knew the Adilla West borehole water wasn’t clean and that it made our children sick,” Nybol says, “but we didn’t have any other choice—until the Zamzam Water Yard was rehabilitated.”
UMCOR Sudan works with community members to build and maintain water projects in the East Darfur region. PHOTO: UMCOR SUDAN.
In December 2015, UMCOR, with funds from the US Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), completed the rehabilitation of the Zamzam Water Yard. Today, it provides more than 250 families with clean, safe water for all their household needs, from drinking to bathing and cleaning the dishes.
Nybol and her neighbors pay a modest fee for the water they draw at Zamzam—money that goes back into the maintenance of the water source. Community members themselves take care of the water yard.
As part of the rehabilitation project, the water, sanitation, and hygiene staff of UMCOR’s Sudan country office worked with the community to establish a nine-member water and sanitation committee. The committee promotes responsible use of the borehole, builds awareness of water and sanitation issues, and calls the community to action to address sanitation needs.
The creation of community boards like the one established for the Zamzam Water Yard is an important capacity-building measure that complements the water yard rehabilitation and ensures its operation.
“Now I am able to get six jerry cans of water each day instead of the two I filled in the past, and I now have more time for farming,” says Nybol.
*UMCOR began working in Sudan in February 2005 after assessment teams determined that UMCOR’s experience could add to the humanitarian effort to alleviate suffering in South Darfur.