Water Filters Improve Lives
By UNICEF Staff writer
March 2012: Niyigena Yolande is a 30-year-old head teacher at a school in Musanze District in the north-western part of Rwanda. Together with 46 other teachers, she is one of the first users of a ceramic water filter that provides, for the first time to her school, access to clean drinking water.
“Before we got these filters, children sometimes did not come to school because they had diarrhoea or worms,” Yolande explains. “We could not offer water to students or visitors. But now we are proud that we can serve safe and fresh water to our students and with the filter, we don’t have to boil the water either! This saves time and protects our environment by saving fire wood.”
The colloidal, silver-impregnated, ceramic filter is a cost-effective and appropriate-technological water treatment device. It can be constructed with locally available materials and was introduced to Rwanda under a project financed by the Government of the Netherlands, which aims to improve access to clean water and adequate sanitation.
Yolande is keen to get a ceramic filter in her own home. “We don’t have a filter at home yet, because it is quite expensive ($20), but my husband is saving money to buy one because we both agree that it will protect our health,” she smiles.
Jacqueline Kabihogo is one of 50 members of a hygiene cooperative, trained with the support from UNICEF to test the ceramic filter and an innovative hand washing system known as “Kandagira ukarabe” in Kinyarwanda, or simply “Step on it and wash your hands.”
“I cannot live without my Kandagira ukarabe,” Jacqueline confesses. “When we finished using the toilet, we would go straight into the house and start doing whatever it was that needed to be done, including cooking or feeding the children. Water here is scarce and we use it sparingly. And besides, the place where we keep our water is far from the latrine. But with our Kandagira ukarabe, the water is right there. We use it, clean our hands and ensure that our daughters also know the importance of using it,” she explains.
A quarter of all people in Rwanda do not have access to safe drinking water, with people living in rural areas most affected; about the same number also lack adequate sanitation. But thanks to the Government of the Netherlands supported-project, things are changing.
By 2013, with support from UNICEF and communities in four “under-served” districts of the country, this project will provide close to half a million people with first time access to clean water, adequate sanitation and information on hygiene promotion.
To date, some 300,000 people have benefited from the project, either from new or rehabilitated water systems and sanitation facilities or water filters and innovative technologies like the ecosan latrine, which helps promote agricultural productivity, while also conserving the environment.
According to Jean Paul Rugemangabo, who is the Representative of a Cooperative that manufactures the ceramic filters, “Making these water filters has improved my family’s life. I never went to high school or learned a trade, but thanks to this project and the new innovations it is bringing to our country, I now have an income from the sale of these filters, I have electricity at home and can pay for my children's school related costs.”