Amref Health Africa's Message on World Water Day 2014
Amref Health Africa joins global partners in advocating for integrated water and energy solutions
Water and energy have crucial impacts on poverty alleviation. Although access to water supply and sanitation in Africa has been steadily improving over the past two decades, a lot still needs to be done. Often, the same people who lack access to improved water sources and sanitation also lack access to electricity. Today, 1.3 billion people are in this situation; it is unacceptable and requires urgent attention. 768 million people across the globe lack access to improved water sources while 2.5 billion people do not have proper sanitation facilities. About 340 million people in Africa do not have reasonable access to safe drinking water and nearly 230 million people defecate in the open. Despite these statistics, the continent is well endowed with fossil fuels: oil, gas and coal, and renewable resources: hydro-power and geothermal in particular. Yet access to modern affordable energy sources is still a challenge for many African nations.
This year, Amref Health Africa joins the world in celebrating World Water Day themed: Water and Energy. In realizing that water and energy are closely interlinked and interdependent, there is need to ensure that water resources are available to all, irrespective of their economic status. Yet, these resources are scarce in developing economies even though generation and transmission of energy often requires utilization of well developed water resources. Inequitable distribution of water resources has seen billions of people especially those who live in slums and rural areas suffer the consequences of unsafe water, inadequate sanitation facilities and energy services.
In most parts of Africa, the common reality for many women and children is that they have to carry 20 liters of the precious liquid and firewood for domestic energy use for very long distances of not less than one kilometer. Sometimes it is not safe to collect firewood from the bushes thereby putting them in grave danger.
In ensuring that the communities served by Amref Health Africa receive potable water for domestic use, we use a variety of energy sources to pump water. In several projects, we have worked in co-operation with various international partners and supporters. The Mtwara WASH project in Tanzania is the largest project where Amref Health Africa has used massive solar powered equipment to deliver water to communities. Through this project and other similar projects, we continue to provide rural areas with affordable and environmental friendly off-grid energy as well as clean drinking water, while creating opportunities for employment, entrepreneurship and education. Over, 15,000 people in Mtwara alone have benefited from such installations.
Amref Health Africa’s projects are aimed at improving the health and livelihood of local communities by providing access to sustainable, environmental friendly and affordable off-grid energy services, such as light, potable water and improved communication. AMREF has further increased accessibility of safe water supply in health centers; increased capacities for operations and maintenance of water systems and; improved safe personal hygiene practices for mothers and their newborns. In 2013, the number of additional people with better access to water (20 liters per capita per day; within 20 minutes) was 16,858, while the number of additional people provided with access to an improved sanitation facility was 107,637. More women have been reached (48,122) and 14,423 girls, in line with our targeted focus on women and children.
Kenyan School children wash their hands in a water point setup by Amref Health Africa
In order to touch the lives of more disadvantaged communities, Amref Health Africa calls for the development of policies and crosscutting frameworks that will ensure the useful integrated approaches to water-energy issues to achieve greater economic and social impact. We consistently advocate for energy access for all people living in Africa and better strategies that can benefit all across the continent. We call on partners to ensure that the 1.3 billion people who have no access to sustainable energy get access because we are convinced that without access to energy, it will be difficult to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
Mwangatini is a small village at the far end of Magarini sub-county in the Kenyan Coastal region. It borders the Galana River, one of two perennial rivers emptying their waters into the Indian Ocean. During the rainy season twice every year, the river overflows and bursts its bank, cutting off the entire road network connecting Mwangatini to the outside world. To reach Malindi, the nearest town, villagers have to risk crossing the flooded river by canoe or walk at least 50km to get public transportation.
Mosquitoes flourish in these flooded conditions and drinking water is heavily polluted by latrines. What follows is a rise in malaria and diarrheal cases. The Government has set up a one-room dispensary to cater to the community of about 4,000 people. The dispensary is one of the four health facilities in Amref Health Africa’s project area of operation. It serves 6,698 people from the surrounding villages. The facility has three full-time employees, one security guard, and no connection to electricity supply.
Habel Gona is the Chairman of the Mwangatini Dispensary Management Committee. According to the committee though, few women were using the facility to deliver babies.
“We have one room that serves as the consultation area, drug store, labor ward … basically everything.” says Sara Santa, treasurer of the committee. “Labor and delivery require privacy, which we don’t have. When we have a mother in the room, other patients are sent outside. But they can still hear everything that goes on inside.”
In 2011 Amref Health Africa partnered with the community and the Ministry of Health to build the ‘Mother and Child Room’, a separate delivery facility, four toilets and a rain harvesting system with a 16 cubic meter storage tank. A year later, we equipped the dispensary with state-of-the-art equipment. Today, with clean water and women’s privacy assured, Mwangatini records 30 successful deliveries per month.
“We now deliver under hygienic conditions, free from infections and surely we feel honored and respected,” acknowledges one woman who had her baby there.
“The progress we have made so far inspires and energizes me to work towards making our vision of lasting health change in Africa a reality. I’m glad to be part of this change”, said Joseph Mwakombe, Amref Health Africa Kenya Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Project, Malindi.
A Young Mother’s Perspective
Dorcas Mapinga is a 25-year-old mother of three; two of her babies were delivered at Mwangatini Dispensary and the youngest at home.
“I went into labor at night and had to seek help from a traditional birth attendant. There is no electricity at the dispensary so I opted for home delivery. However, I took the infant to the Mother and Child Centre the following day, which is a nice place.
Many women who choose to have their babies at home lose a lot of blood through bleeding. Some faint while others bleed to death. Additionally, most traditional birth attendants do not sterilize their tools for cutting the placenta and put both mother and child at risk of getting infections like HIV and tetanus. But at the dispensary, deliveries are safe and done by a trained health care worker. We get prenatal and postnatal care, education on hygiene and family planning services.
A lot of babies used to die from malaria, but now that villagers have been educated on the use of nets and had their babies checked through postnatal services, the situation is much better, thanks to the dispensary. It means a lot to us.
Most mothers now understand the importance of washing hands after using the toilet and before handling food, boiling water for drinking, and how to handle the baby if the mother has HIV. We have learned many things.”
ABOUT THE PROJECT
Integrated Focused School and Maternal Newborn Child Health in Magarini is part of a larger Amref Health Africa in Kenya project – the Coastal School Health Project. Funded by Amref Health Africa in Italy, it is a five year project (2011-2016) on its third phase of implementation.
The purpose of the project is to sustainably increase access to safe water and sanitation and promote appropriate hygiene practices among women, children in schools and surrounding communities in Magarini Sub-County of Kenya. Since inception, it has intervened in more than 139 public schools.
1. Increase access to safe water by 30% from 67% in five years
2. Increase access to safe sanitation by 20% from 30.5% in five years
3. Improve hygiene practices by 50% from 52.6%
4. Increase access to MNCH services by 20% from 53.2% in the target population within the five years
5. Promote practices encouraging environmental conservation and food security
6. Innovative approaches for delivery of reproductive and child health services using schools and local community structures.