Our work in Africa and Asia is based on the provision of not only safe water, but also sanitation and hygiene. ActiveWater funds full-scale programs in iWASH (Integrated Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene.) By investing in all three types of community development practices we are able to triple the health impact of providing just safe water alone.
‣Safe water: We approach this need by providing the following resources. We drill new community boreholes outfitted with simple handpump wells, repair existing wells, manufacture and install biosand filters in homes, build rain catchment tanks, as well as use gravity flow and spring water protection at sites where it is suitable. Clean water alone reduces childhood water-related deaths by 15 - 20%. By adding hygiene practices such as hand washing you can reduce diarrhea deaths by another 35 percent. Providing access to adequate sanitation can reduce rates by 40%, which is why when the foundations have been laid for safe, accessible water the work must be continued with hygeine training and proper sanitation.
•Drilling wells: Drill rigs are used to drill wells that are then equipped with hand pumps. A well can provide water for up to 750 people, but the average well serves roughly 300 - 400 people. The cost of a well is not a flat rate, not even within the same project area. To drill a new borehole and equip it with a handpump suitable for daily use by hundreds of people can cost as little as $4,000 and as much as $9,000. Variables such as terrain at location, drill equipment required to reach the water point, extent of disinfecting the site and removing all nearby contaminants, as well as time and resources involved in carefully removing obstructions near the site all have an impact on determining the cost of a specific project. For instance, the ground composition in Zambia can require nearly 5 days of drilling alone to reach a water point suitable for public use. And our drill sites within Cambodia are within the Banteay Meanchey Province which falls along the western Cambodian border with Thailand. Before any drillwork can be done, land mines hidden under the surface must be carefully searched out by metal detectors and dug out by hand. The work is contracted out to the CMAC and can take anywhere from 2 - 3 days to clear 20x20 meters. Hygiene training is always included in each project.
•Repairing wells: There are many wells drilled by other organizations, missionary teams, and governments that are no longer working because they have not received adequate maintenance. Wells can become contaminated when used by communities where training in hygiene and sanitation was never offered or not taught to the extent that it reached all community members. Overtime, if little to no maintenance has been given to a well site, concrete foundations of the well pad may sink or crumble, pipes in the borehole may crack and leak causing inadequate pressure, and simple parts such the cranks on handpumps can break completely off due to excessive use. By repairing these hand pump wells, we are able to restore access to safe water for communities without the expense of drilling new wells. Standard repair cost to a well can be as little as $500 or as much as $1,500.
•Biosand filters: Biosand filters are a simple technology that can reduce contamination of water by 98%. In communities with ready access to surface water (which is nearly always highly contaminated), biosand filters can make the water safe to drink. A filter costs $85 and will serve a Zambian household for 10 - 15 years. The biosand filters are an adaptation to slow sand filtration, which has been commonly used in community water treatment for nearly 200 years. They work by using a multi-barrier approach of mechanical trapping, predation, adsorption, and natural death. In essence, harmful bacteria and pathogens die from being either physically trapped, consumed by other microorganisms in the biolayer, attach to each other and become trapped or suspended in the sand grains, or die because there is not enough food or oxygen in the filter for them to survive. We call it "God's design in a box".Unfortunately, we do not use biosand filters in Cambodia at this time.
In Zambia, Biosand filters are made on site by our partners, SHIP, and their local Zambian staff. Filters are installed in homes after recipient families have underwent valuable training courses on hygiene and sanitation practices. Family members are also invited and transported to our biosand factory to participate in further education on the filters themselves by assisting in building their filter with our trained staff. We believe this increases their understanding of how slow-sand filtration works and provides an opportunity for them to give of themselves towards the project and not simply be a recipient of charitable goods. At the time of installation, the household leader is given further training on maintenance and receives a certificate of ownership for their new filter. When possible, families contribute 15,000 Kwatcha (the equivalent of $3) to the purchase of their filter. All of these steps encourage ownership, more effective use and maintenance of the resource, and instills a sense of accomplishment.
‣Sanitation: The World Health Organization estimates that 2.6 billion people (72% and 21% of whom live in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, respectively), do not use improved sanitation facilities. It is a common practice in many rural communities to openly defecate in your yard. This leads to major issues in water-related illnesses and disease transmittal from bacteria that eventually transfers from hand-to-mouth contact. Once girls reach puberty, lack of access to sanitation becomes a central human health issue, contributing to female illiteracy and low levels of education and, in turn, repeating the cycle of poverty. We build latrines at public areas such as schools, markets, and community centers. By simply providing a separate latrine facility for girls, school enrollment rates have been shown to improve by over 15%. We also fund sanitation training within villages and demonstrate the many types of latrines that can be built. Our "Community Champions" become experts on demo latrines and share their new knowledge of constructing latrines and how to properly place family latrines away from water resources..
‣Hygiene: Unhygienic handling of water during transport or within the home can contaminate previously safe water. Since hands are vehicles for transporting pathogens to food, water, and mouths, it is imperitive that teaching proper hygienic behaviors be given an increased amount of focus and funding. A study showed that the act of simply washing one's hands after using the bathroom and before preparing food can reduce the risk of diarrheal diseases by 47%. ActiveWater's partners not only train communities using curriculum developed by Lifewater International on hygiene practices, but also incorporate TOT teaching (Training of Trainers). Beyond handwashing, we instruct villagers on building Tippy Taps, dishdrying racks, disinfecting water jugs, and building garbage pits away from their homes.