Water for life

A UNICEF water point rehabilitates a village in East Darfur

Khamisa Mohamed Rajab Rizgal
boy fills jerry cans at water point
22 March 2020

Asalaya is a small village of 5,000 inhabitants located in a remote part of East Darfur State, one available borehole is out of service and in need of rehabilitation facilities and operational maintenance. Last February, village residents had to walk more than 2 km to collect unsafe water from unprotected sources; during times of low rainfall the sources ran dry, women were unable to engage in income generating activities and girls were unable to attend school. Even more alarming, many times villagers were forced to drink from unprotected water sources – sources shared with animals -  leading to multiple health problems, particularly for children.

Getting enough clean water has long been a difficult task, but through working with the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), UNICEF has been able to turn the situation around -  building and rehabilitating the locality water system to ensure that 5,000 people have access to safe drinking water.

UNICEF has encouraged ownership of the water points through mentorship and community funds. Water-user committees were trained on management, operation, and maintenance of water points, proper procedures for use of clean water containers and were given hand washing messages. 

Before the installation of the water point people were in poor health because they did not have access to safe, clean water.  Poor hygiene are major contributors to water-borne diseases such as diarrhoea. “We had to walk very far two kilometres on the other side of the village, a long distance to get water from unsafe sources such as stagnating pools,” said Amina Hassan a resident of Asalaya.

water source in a village
An unprotected water source in Asalaya. Before the water point was installed villagers were forced to drink from water sources that were shared with animals -  leading to multiple health problems, particularly for children.

Mr. Ahmed, a head teacher in the village, explained the challenge facing pupils and staff at the basic primary school, most notably in regards to school attendance, retention and educational performance.  “The school has 350 students. They walk two kilometres one way every day to get water into their five litre cans. The students are not settled for their classes because of water challenge. The ten teachers and their families are not comfortable to stay at the school because of water problem,” said Mr. Ahmed.  

UNICEF’s interventions in the village had far reaching ramifications for the village. The water point had positive consequences for the many challenges the community faced on health, sanitation and education. “Life is much better now that I have clean water near my house,” said Rukiya Yakoub a  villager and mother of five. “I don’t walk all day in the heat to find water. In less than 40 minutes’ walk, I fill my water jerry can by turning a tap at the borehole. The water project has saved every woman in this village a lot of hardship and time.”

As a result of these and other successful UNICEF water, sanitation and hygiene interventions, there is a remarkable decrease of diarrhoeal diseases in the project areas. Now that the water points are fully functional, the borehole provides villagers with immediate access to clean water. Villagers have more time to work in the field, mothers spend less time carrying water and more time helping their families and, children attend school regularly and are enjoying improved health.

“My children, and even myself, used to fall sick because of dirty water,” she adds. “Now we don’t run to the hospital complaining of diarrhoea anymore; with clean water, we enjoy good health,” said Rukiya. 

This critical intervention in the village of  Asalaya  was made possible due to the generous contribution of the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).