Safe water guarantees our health
Chibuto, GAZA, March 2013 – Belinha deftly handles the water pump, pushing and pulling at the lever as water pours into the bucket. She makes sure the container is filled up to the top, takes a little sip from the tap, lifts the bucket to her shoulder, and then on to her head. She then heads down the sandy path towards home.
Belinha is a lanky 12-year old and for such a slight build, she is unusually strong. Or perhaps all girls her age in this rural part of Chibuto in the central Mozambican province of Gaza are able to carry 20-liter water containers on their heads without breaking a sweat.
This is a routine she performs every day after school. She has two younger siblings, and as the older daughter, she is in charge of making sure there is enough water at home, to drink, cook, and clean.
“Before we used to go to the river, but that was so far away and it took hours to get there,” says Belinha. “But since the water pump was built in the school, it has become easier for me.”
The water pump is in the backyard of the Waekane Primary School, which is about 25 kilometers from the center of Chibuto, far away from any major roads or water supply system. The pump provides water all year-round to the schoolchildren, teachers and the rest of the community, much-needed in an area that is chronically in need of good quality water.
Wells here have to typically reach very deep into the ground, because surface water in this region tends to be salty, and with no access to the municipal water supply system, the well in the Waekane School is the only source of clean water for the community.
Authorities with UNICEF support recently decided to resort to an alternative technology adding a second source of water for the school, namely rainwater. A harvesting system like the one at Belinha’s school usually includes zinc sheeting on the roof to capture the rain, and gutters and spouts to divert it to a large storage and treatment tank in the schoolyard, with a pump attached to it. The rainy season generally lasts from November to early April, so during those months, the school is able to make use of a scarce resource that would otherwise have gone to waste.
“Rainwater tanks won’t be large enough to last over the dry season,” says Mark Henderson, UNICEF Chief of the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene programme, “but rainwater harvesting is still a good alternative, in addition to collecting water from rivers or hand pumps, and we use this technique widely in child-friendly schools.”
Child-friendly schools such as Waekane provide schoolchildren not only with an improved water supply, such as rainwater harvesting and hand pumps, but also separate latrines for boys and girls, encouraging mostly girls to remain in school.
Clean water is an essential part of child health and survival in Mozambique. Today, a little more than half of the country’s children have access to improved water supply, and diarrhea remains the number one killer of children under the age of 5.
“Safe water guarantees the good health of our children, the teachers and the rest of the community,” says Cecilia Makuakua, a teacher at Waekane Primary School. “Bad water means disease.”
For more information, please contact:
Patricia Nakell, UNICEF Mozambique,
tel: (+258) 21 481 100;
Gabriel Pereira, UNICEF Mozambique,
tel: (+258) 21 481 100;