Water is a life and death issue – without it there can be no life. Yet while most people in the developed world consider access to clean water as essential (in the unlikely event they think about it at all) billions of people still don’t have easy access to clean, safe water.
|An old water point in an Indonesian village|
|This picture show a less-obvious lesson learned during the evaluation programme. The airpipe from a septic tank must be made from a metal – not plastic – tube. If not, children use their caterpaults to shoot the plastic away and the pipe quickly becomes too close to nose level!|
|Women collect water from a Salvation Army pump in India|
|A water well in Indonesia|
|A Salvation Army-built sanitation block in Indonesia|
|Evaluation consultant John Morris tests the quality of water in India|
|Children collect water from a Salvation Army pump in Ghana|
The Millennium Development Goals – signed up to by all United Nations governments – of halving world poverty by 2015 included targets to halve the number of people without safe water and adequate sanitation.
Unfortunately, in many regions these targets are off track, especially in Africa and particularly with regard to sanitation. According to the non-governmental agency WaterAid, more than 2.6 billion people – two-fifths of the world’s population – do not have access to sanitation.
With this in mind, it is no surprise that The Salvation Army’s project partners in developing countries have identified water and sanitation as areas for future growth. For this reason some water and sanitation projects were selected for the Global Evaluation study.
In total, six of the 16 projects evaluated had a water and/or sanitation component ranging from a water pump installed in a hospital facility or school yard to pumps and wells provided for a community, latrine construction for individual houses and toilet blocks for a community. In Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Tanzania and Ghana women were asked what difference these projects were making to them.
‘Why women?’ is probably the most obvious question. Well, in most developing countries women are the main water collectors. For women, accessing clean water is essential for family health and the good functioning of their households. But for a large number of women water is a scarce resource and many have to walk or cycle long distances under the baking sun to reach a water source. Once there they often need to queue for their turn to fill their buckets and pots before they make their long journey home. Even then the water they collect is often not clean and brings illness and disease to their families.
The absence of toilet facilities is also a problem. The lack of a clean place to go to the toilet is a concern for women as this also results in the spread of disease among family members. Women themselves get sick but they are also required to carry the burden of medicine costs and increased work when other family members get sick.
Safety is also an issue as going to the bush can be dangerous, particularly for women and children at night.
Sanitation projects do not need to be large or flashy. Hygiene standards and sound design are essential but women know best what facilities they require, how much space they need and what materials are most suitable. A lot can be learned from facilities already available within the community.
As part of the evaluation activities, three remote villages were visited where a Salvation Army project aims to establish good sanitation practices through working with the community to build permanent latrines.
The evaluation team found that 160 latrines had been built, designed and modified in consultation with the whole community. Each family had contributed 60,000 Tanzanian shillings in labour and materials (approximately £30) for their new latrine and they all received training on good sanitation practices. The training obviously paid off as all the latrines had a small tin can and soap so users could wash their hands.
It seems that the benefits of the new latrines are clearly understood by women and their families in these three villages and that this sanitation project is making a real difference.
The women obviously appreciated the huge differences good facilities are making in their communities. ‘The environment around our house is cleaner,’ said one, ‘because people are not using it for toilets.’ Another highlighted the health benefits: ‘Our children are growing well, they are not suffering.’
Even safety and community relations issues were brought up.
In some places in Tanzania – in an effort to clean up the environment and reduce disease – villagers were encouraged to report those who did not use latrines to the police. This was resulting in community tensions as the majority of families did not have the resources or knowledge to construct a latrine.
The Salvation Army project has helped to address these issues.
‘Before we used to go into the bush,’ said one woman, ‘but it was dangerous and people would call the police. Now we are safe from police and snakes!’
It was clear that the new latrines were proving very popular. Word is spreading, with one woman in a neighbouring village telling the Salvation Army team: ‘Now we know how good the new latrines are we would like to have them.’
And although the project is now officially finished, the contractors have trained up local apprentices and involved families in the construction process so that knowledge and skills for latrine building remain in these communities.
It seems likely that the woman from the neighbouring village will get her latrine sometime soon.