Angola, 22 October 2010: Safe water saves lives
By Steve Felton
KAMIKOTO, Angola, 22 October 2010 – Deep in the heart of Angola, a boy runs, jumps and splashes with friends in a river. Women wash their clothes under the cool shade of a large tree. A canoe passes by, its owner looking for fish.
In Angola rivers are plentiful but no longer fit for drinking. Before a UNICEF-supported programme known as ‘Agua Para Todos’ (‘Water for All’) arrived here to set up a water treatment plant, many people in the area died from drinking dirty water – especially children.
Safe water, vast improvements
By the riverside in the village of Kamikoto is a bright blue water treatment plant, one of several currently being piloted in Angola. The welcome addition brings fresh, safe water to the villagers.
Antonio Manuel, who lives in Kamikoto, gives a sharp tug at the generator cord and the machine jumps to life, pumping water from the river into its pipes and tanks. He casts an experienced eye over the joints, checking for leaks caused by blockages, and then switches the treatment machinery on. It's a job he does every day, and he enjoys the responsibility.
"People don't get ill anymore," said Mr. Manuel. Before the plant arrived, some villagers did treat the water with chlorine, but it didn't taste good and not everybody could afford it.
Village Chief Miguel Francisco founded Kamikoto, having moved here when the Portuguese were leaving the area in 1960. Since then, he has also been the area coordinator, working directly with the local government of Cacuaco municipality. As the village grew from its original two houses into a sizeable community with its own school and health centre, dirty water became a big issue in village life. Children were often sick with diarrhoea – one of the main killers of children in Angola.
Water paves the way
Mr. Francisco took the matter up with the local Cacuaco government. At the time, the UNICEF-supported ‘Agua Para Todos’ programme was just getting underway and Kamikoto joined the list for a water treatment plant.
Today, the plant serves some 2,500 people daily. While it was installed by UNICEF, it is owned and maintained by a local ‘Grupo de Agua e Saneamento’ – a water and sanitation group composed of citizens from the area in coordination with the Cacuaco municipality. The plant filters water and adds just the right amount of chlorine for disinfection. Maintenance is minimal.
With the new treatment plant, safe water has come to the Kamikoto health centre and has paved the way for other important changes in the village. The chief is looking forward to building a secondary school. For now, older students must travel to Cacuaco or even further, to the capital, Luanda, an hour's drive away.
Mr. Manuel receives about $64 per month in return for maintaining the water treatment machine. The income helps to pay for his children's clothes and schooling.
On the river bank, the women have finished their washing and a truck pulls up with drums to fill with water. Mr. Manuel explains that the treated water costs money – it has to, or the people might waste it.
The village has two water points which are fenced off in order to keep animals out and prevent contamination. Every bucket is paid for. The chief has his own tap with a water meter, not because he is the chief, but because he wanted to pay for his own supply.
But the river is still free, and provides ample water for washing clothes, watering garden crops and for animals to drink. The treatment plant has been turned off and Mr. Manuel is relaxing under the tree. When asked if the water technicians come here often, he says no. There has been no need – everything is fine here.
More stories from Angola
More stories on WASH