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Handpumps and education bring safe water and hygiene to Sudanese villages

© UNICEF/2007
Selma, 14, is a year behind in school because she had to travel long distances with her mother to fetch water before handpumps were installed in her village.

SARAF ADEI, Sudan, 24 January 2007 ─ As Selma, 14, waits to fill her bucket with water at the new handpump in her village in South Kordofan state, she recalls how things were before it was installed.

“My mother used to be away from the house for a long time when she went to fetch water. Sometimes, she would take me with her with my small bucket, and I could not go to school,” she says.

Girls Selma’s age should be in Class 5 or 6. However, helping with household chores and accompanying her mother to fetch water has caused Selma to fall behind in her schooling. Currently, she is in Class 4.

Keeping students in class

Once Selma got to school, her problems continued. Some days, school was halted for almost an hour and a half to allow students to get water for their morning meal.

Four handpumps were rehabilitated in Selma’s village in 2003 by the Water, Environment and Sanitation Project, a partnership between UNICEF and the State Water Corporation, with financial support from the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid Department. The project has three overall priorities:

  • To ensure safe drinking water supplies
  • To promote hygiene awareness and good sanitation practices
  • To eradicate Guinea Worm disease, which results from consumption of contaminated water.

With the installation of the handpumps, Selma and her classmates only need to take a 20-minute break for water, as one of the four water points is near the school.

© UNICEF/2007
Selma and her friends around the new handpump.

Involving the entire community

A 2002 survey here found that Saraf Adei was among over 300 communities that were severely disadvantaged in access to basic social services. Some 48 per cent of all people in South Kordofan do not have access to safe drinking water. Waterborne diseases, particularly dysentery and diarrhoea, are the leading causes of death for children under the age of five.

While the villagers are glad to have four handpumps for 5,000 people, the number is still too low. In Sudan, the standard maximum number of people who should be served by one handpump is 500.

The survey five years ago also found that fewer than 3 in 10 children were in school, and only 1 in 8 were immunized against the six major childhood diseases. To address these issues, villages such as Saraf Adei joined the Child-Friendly Community Initiative (CFCI), a UNICEF-supported government initiative to ensure that children in especially disadvantaged areas have a good start in life.

CFCI works to involve the entire community and the local government in projects that improve water and sanitation, primary health care, basic education, abandonment of harmful traditions and empowerment of women and children.

‘I do not want to fall sick’

Residents of Saraf Adei have learned the importance of enrolling their children, especially girls, in school, immunizing children and safely disposing of waste.

Selma proudly announces that she is a member of her school’s Hygiene Club, one of more than 20 such clubs in the area sponsored by the Water Environment and Sanitation Project and UNICEF.

Through the club, she and her fellow pupils learn how to keep themselves and their homes clean. They are also taught how to protect the environment through proper disposal of garbage. In addition, the children learn how to use handpumps properly so they do not break down. “I always tell my brother to wash his hands before eating from my plate,” Selma says seriously. “I do not want to fall sick with diarrhoea.”

Three years into the programme, villages involved in CFCI have shown a significant reduction in waterborne diseases.



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