By Robert Fraser in Nampula Province, Mozambique
When water becomes scarce, families often face a choice; move on or deal with the risks that come from relying on dirty or diseased water. This is the case in many areas of Mozambique, where the national Red Cross society has been working to provide clean water and sanitation to 180 villages and schools.
Fatima Assine, a field technician from the Mozambique Red Cross Society (MRCS), says that since once a new water supply is installed in the village, the population steadily increases. “People are drawn to where reliable and safe water supplies are accessible,” she says.
Speaking to elders in several of the communities we visited, this trend is recognised as fairly recent. One says: “Before we could rely on our rivers throughout the year, or we could dig down into the river beds during the dry season and still get water. In some areas we cannot do that any more – our river dried up, we hade to move here with our families and livestock, where we could get water.”
As the long dry season becomes longer and drier, more rivers are drying up and existing shallow wells are providing little or no water. “When we started this four year water, sanitation and hygiene promotion project in 2008, we decided in the early stages to move away from developing shallow wells as they are increasingly proving unreliable,” Fatima says. “Now we only drill deep bore holes to tap safe water up to 50 meters below ground.”
In response people, usually women and children, have been forced to walk further to get water, and the water they find is unsafe. Nampula Province has also suffered from cholera outbreaks, however in the two districts where the MRCS has been working over the last four years; there have been no new cholera outbreaks.
Sustainability of water supply is a crucial component of the society’s approach. When visiting communities, we met their water point committees and saw how they were collecting money, keeping records and purchasing the spare parts for their hand pumps. They then demonstrated how they carry out the simple repairs themselves. Over 97 per cent of the water points constructed so far are fully operational.
Planning for an uncertain future
Uli Jaspers, Head of Water, Sanitation and Emergency Health at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) says that climate change is having a significant impact on water projects across the region. “We are having to adapt our approach to better address the needs of affected communities,” he says. “Contributing to their resilience to these changes while reducing their risks, including the risk of water and sanitation related diseases such as cholera which is especially on the increase in Africa.”
Eduardo Frenque, MRCS project manager, says the project is coming to its conclusion, and that it had made a serious impact on the lives of thousands. ”On completion we will have established over 180 village water supplies, assisted 25,000 households to build improved family latrines, improved sanitation at 40 schools, and provided community training for hand pump maintenance and management.” The project also involves hygiene promotion through the CHAST (Child Hygiene and Sanitation Transformation) programme. “In the schools we have targeted, we have trained teachers to promote better hygiene among their pupils. They have noted that children are more likely to use the school latrines that were built by the communities themselves after they have had CHAST sessions,” Frenque says.
MRCS Secretary General Americo Ubisse said: "The scale of this project, the remoteness of the area – poor roads and communications - have all been challenging, it has taken us some time to build up enough momentum to reach our targets. However, now we see the fruits of our labours and are on track to successful completion. This project could only have been achieved with good working relationships with government and the support of our partners, the European Union, Finnish and Norwegian Red Cross and the IFRC."