The residents acting to ensure a clean environment for their children

The village of Bayamuguma was “certified clean” in 2014, and since then, all of the residents have acted to maintain their status.

Yves Willemot (translated from French by Lucy Oyelade)
Une femme se lave les mains avec de l'eau propre recueillie dans un bambou dans sa maison en République démocratique du Congo.
21 March 2019

“When I was a child, animals and people shared river water a few kilometres from here,” remembers Tantine, one of the inhabitants of Bayamguma in the north of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Tantine has lived in the village since she was a small child and she remembers that she often had diarrhoea when she was young. “We were often ill because we used the river water for cooking and washing,” she says. The river water was contaminated with animal excrement and tasted awful.

This was the reality in many other villages in the region: the water consumed by the inhabitants was not drinking water, dirt lingered in the streets, plots of land were not maintained, etc. Growing up, Tantine and the residents of the village realised that this situation could not continue. Together, they decided to participate in the Healthy Villages and Schools programme, implemented by the Congolese Government with UNICEF’s support.

Tantine est en première ligne pour garantir de meilleures conditions d’hygiène à sa famille.

“Since our village got certified as clean, lots of things have changed here,” affirms Tantine. The village is now cleaner and has drinking water, toilets and hand washing units. “It’s not only cleaner and nicer to live in, but children’s health issues have also drastically reduced,” she adds. Basically, in order to be recognised as a clean village, it is necessary for the population to know the different ways diarrhoeal illnesses can be spread.

Tantine is first in line to guarantee better hygiene conditions for her family. Every day, she begins by cleaning the land in front of her home and drawing drinking water for the day. Tantine is not the only one to have adopted these good daily habits. All of the villagers have reacted enthusiastically and have sprung into action.

président du Comité de gestion du projet, Dieumerci s’assure que tous les problèmes soient étudiés et que des améliorations soient proposées.

“We have a committee which meets every month to discuss the problems we face and any improvements we can make,” explains Dieumerci, another resident of Bayamguma. Dieumerci, as the elected president of the Committee managing the project, ensures that all problems are studied and improvements proposed. Since the last meeting, a problem regarding bad herbs has been solved. “It attracts mosquitoes and increases the risk of malaria,” Dieumerci explains. With the members of the committee, a clean-up operation was organised to remove all of the bad herbs.

Tantine and Dieumerci are fervent defenders of their village’s status. “Maintaining our status is a dynamic process that every villager should participate in,” they explain. In Bayamguma, the whole community is part of creating an environment where every child can grow up in good health. “Our children are in much better health,” conclude Tantine and Dieumerci, who are determined to continue their efforts.

Across the DRC, nearly 10,000 villages participate in the programme thanks to the support of UKAid and USAid, contributing to improving the health of more than 11 million Congolese people.