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Simple techniques help ensure safe water for families in eastern Cameroon

© UNICEEF Cameroon/2010/Bello
A child fetches drinking water in a village in eastern Cameroon. The region does not lack water but the supply needs to be filtered before it is safe to drink.

BERTOUA, Cameroon, 25 March 2010 – Mbelé Jeannette, 38, a mother of nine children – including a three-month-old – has recently learned a simple technique to provide safe water for her family at home in Mbidja village, eastern Cameroon. And she has noticed a big difference in their health.

“I have started to boil drinking water for my family. Since then, my children have not fallen sick,” she said. “Before, when they were drinking water directly from the spring, every three months they had diarrhoea and I was obliged to take them to hospital.”

For many other families in the region, however, lack of safe water remains a big problem. As a result, their children’s lives and health are still threatened by diarrhoeal diseases.

Safe-water alternatives

To address the problem, UNICEF and the Ministry of Public Health have trained 30 people to help families apply simple clean-water techniques at home – including chlorination, boiling of water and exposure of drinking water in transparent bottles to solar energy.

© UNICEF Cameroon/2010/Bello
Bio-sand filters in eastern Cameroon, where UNICEF and its partners train families and communities to build the filters, which remove impurities from their drinking water.

In addition, the non-governmental organization Livelihood partners with the Regional Centre for Potable Water and Sanitation in Cameroon, the country’s Ministry of Power and Water Resources, and UNICEF to find sustainable ways of providing safe water for drinking and other household uses.

For example, the partners conduct practical sessions on the construction of ‘biosand’ filters, a cost-effective water filtration system using sand. At the end of the training sessions, each local community association receives a mould that families can use to make the filters. If three families pool their money to buy a bag of cement, a trained technician will assist them with filter construction.

Removing contaminants

A biosand filter costs about $13 and can clean 24 litres of water per hour. In the inner part of the filter, there are several layers of gravel and fine sand, through which water percolates to remove particles and pathogens.

“This appears to be an expensive initiative for some families from these poor localities,” said the Deputy Director of the Ministry of Power and Water Resources, Dr. Jane Alobwede. “Nevertheless, it is a cost-effective investment for them. Their members will have potable water to drink for many years – and will then stay away from diarrhoeal diseases and other waterborne diseases.”



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