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At a glance: Gambia

A Gambian community learns the importance of safe water

© UNICEF Gambia/2006/Thomas
Kumba and baby Baluta, who survived an outbreak of cholera in their town and now have safe water thanks to a UNICEF ‘WASH’ project.

By Begay Downes-Thomas

KANIFING, Gambia, 28 December  2006 – Over a year ago, Ebo Town was struck by cholera and 40,000 people were infected with the disease – one of the forms of diarrhoea that kills 2.2 million people every year, most of them children.

“Everyone in this compound was sick [at home] or at the hospital,” recalls Kumba Camara, who was heavily pregnant at the time. “For two weeks everyone was ill. I thought I was going to die.”

But a year later, Ebo Town is cholera-free and Kumba has a healthy baby girl named Baluta (which means ‘to live’). The change was brought about through the UNICEF ‘WASH’ project, which works with partners to improve water, hygiene and sanitation.

The project is implemented through a number of government departments that work with local communities to build improved pit latrines, test and chlorinate unprotected open wells, and install water taps for town residents.

Hygiene, health and dignity

Kumba’s seven-year-old son Abdoulie goes to one of Ebo Town’s 19 new community taps to collect water for the family. “We were told to always wash our hands with soap and water,” he says.

Good hygiene practice is essential to preventing diarrhoeal disease, which spreads quickly in communities that lack safe water and sanitation.

“Safe disposal of human excreta is of paramount importance to the health and dignity of all people,” says UNICEF Representative in Gambia Cheryl Gregory Faye. “Today 2.4 billion people living in developing countries lack hygienic means of excreta disposal – and globally, more than 125 million children under five years of age live in households without access to an improved drinking-water source.”

The WASH project in Ebo Town decreases the risk of cholera and lessens the intensity of any outbreak. The project also promotes long-term measures to reduce all diarrhoeal disease.




7 December 2006:
UNICEF Correspondent Thomas Nybo reports on bringing safe water to a Gambian town.
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