Keep Water Out of the Reach of Children

Mukakibibi, 50, is a two-term village chief in a village in Rweru, Bugesera, Rwanda. Credit: WaterAid/ Behailu Shiferaw

By Behailu Shiferaw
KIGALI, Rwanda, Jul 10 2018 (IPS)

To many of us, ‘keep out of the reach of children’ is a phrase we see printed on labels for medicines and chemicals. To mothers in Rweru Sector, Rwanda, it’s a daily principle to live by.

“Once we collected the water, we wouldn’t just leave it anywhere until it is boiled and safe to drink. We always put it at a height the younger ones couldn’t reach. We feared they might accidentally drink it,” 50-year-old Mukakibibi Priscile told me.

In the village, mothers like Mukakibibi could not afford to be complacent. A slip-up could have serious consequences. Only a few years ago, Mukakibibi’s neighbour and close friend, Zebuliya, lost her three-year-old child to diarrhoea, high fever and vomiting, all of which, the doctor told her, are directly linked to drinking unclean water.

Three years later, the village is transformed now that its 6,000 people have access to clean water close to their homes. WaterAid Rwanda’s collaboration with DfID made it possible to dig two new boreholes in an area with proven underground water potential. Those two boreholes give a combined yield of 3.4 litres per second, which is enough for such a small village.

A solar-powered pump that needs little maintenance and has zero running cost for the communities pumps the water into two 40,000 litre tanks, which is then used to supply the village, the school and the health centre with water. Rural households access the water through five water kiosks, one of which happened to fall right in front of Mukakibibi’s house.

Mukakibibi could not be happier; instead of walking for an hour-and-a-half to get dirty water from the lake, she now needs only a few minutes to fetch clean water to cook, drink, or wash with. No longer does she need to hide the water from her grandson.

The Nzangwa Health Centre in the village has also undergone a transformation; the head of the centre, Ndamyuwera Edison, told me he had not heard of any child who died of waterborne diseases over two years, since the villagers have access to clean water.

In addition to a constant clean water supply, the health centre has also got a new waste burner, a placenta pit and a medical waste disposal chamber. The clinic also has a fully revamped and functioning block of showers and toilets.

Ndamyuwera explained that before the health centre had a clean water supply, the janitors were so busy fetching water that none of the delivery rooms were cleaned in between births, at great risk of mothers and their babies.

When I met one of the janitors, Eric, in 2016, he was barely around to do any cleaning work. Instead, he was constantly transporting water in jerry cans on his run-down bike. I once followed him on one of his water runs; when we got down to the lake – after a good 30 or 35-minute biking up and down a zig-zagging dirt road – he got off the bike, unstrapped the jerry cans, took off his sleepers, folded up the legs of his trousers and walked straight in. No dipping his toes first.

When I saw him again now, after WaterAid had brought water into the health centre, I found Eric in blue overalls, rubber boots and safety gloves. He is a full-time janitor now.

On one side of his bedroom in his house hangs one of his old jerry cans – covered and embellished in a fertiliser sack. In the middle is a hole out of which shows a speaker connected to his radio set. Eric crawled over his bed to connect two thin wires, and music filled the room. Now that is transformation – I thought.

Across the world 844 million people still do not have access to clean water, and 1 in 3 people still live without adequate sanitation facilities. In Rwanda alone 43% of people live without basic access to water, while 38% of people do not have a decent toilet. Each year, over 900 children under 5 die from diarrhoea.

World leaders have come together at the United Nations headquarters in New York for the High Level Political Forum (HLPF), 9 July-18 July, to review the progress that has been made on Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6) – to provide clean water and sanitation to everyone, everywhere.

On current progress, Rwanda is on course to have universal access to clean water by 2082 and to give everyone access to a decent toilet by 2047.

To achieve the transformation that Mukakibibi’s village has gone through all around Rwanda, efforts on health and nutrition need to be integrated with action on water and sanitation. Global goal 6 on water, sanitation and hygiene for all underpins progress towards the global goal on ending malnutrition and providing health for all.

Kuwait Provides USD 10 Million to UN Migration Agency for Operations in Yemen 

IOM Director General William Lacy Swing with Kuwait Ambassador Jamal Al-Ghunaim. Credit: IOM

By International Organization for Migration
GENEVA, Jul 10 2018 (IOM)

On Monday, 9 July, the State of Kuwait donated USD 10 million in support of the UN Migration Agency (IOM)’s humanitarian work in Yemen.

“Given the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Yemen, the State of Kuwait is determined to support the humanitarian needs of the Yemeni people through its collaboration with the international humanitarian organizations,” Ambassador Jamal Al-Ghunaim, Permanent Representative of the State of Kuwait to the United Nations Office and other International Organizations in Geneva, told IOM’s Director General William Lacy Swing, during their meeting.

“The State of Kuwait would like to reiterate its firm intention of further strengthening the longstanding and fruitful relations with the International Organization for Migration, in the ultimate service of international humanitarian work,” the ambassador added.

Director General Swing called Kuwait “a reliable source of support” for many years and observed that the emirate is IOM’s oldest collaborator among the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.

In February this year, IOM, the United Nations Migration Agency, launched a USD 96.2 million appeal to support Yemenis and migrants impacted by the three-year old conflict.

The appeal comes under the USD 2.96 billion Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) which covers the entire humanitarian community.

Due to a protracted economic crisis, intermittent conflict, and weak rule of law, Yemen was already facing chronic vulnerabilities even prior to the escalation of conflict on 25 March 2015. This has led to a system-wide failure in the health and education sector, as well as a shutdown of governmental services and mass unemployment. Some 22.2 million Yemenis – more than 2 out of 3 people – will need humanitarian aid in 2018, with half of the population living in areas directly affected by conflict.

“Three years of conflict have inflicted suffering on millions, affecting every Yemeni – man, woman or child,” said DG Swing. “With armed conflict ongoing, a stalled peace process and an economic blockade, Yemen is in the grips of a devastating protracted humanitarian and developmental crisis,” he added.

The conflict has also displaced some two million Yemenis within their own country, according to the Task Force on Population Movement. Nearly 90 per cent of internally displaced persons (IDPs) have been displaced for one year or more, including 69 per cent who have been displaced for over two years. The protracted nature of the displacement is straining IDPs’ and host communities’ ability to cope.

A further one million IDPs have returned to their area of origin but are in dire need of aid. Their homes have been severely damaged by the fighting and urgently require rehabilitation assistance.

For more information, please contact Saba Malme at IOM Sana’a, Tel: + 967 736 800 329; Email: smalme@iom.int, or Joel Millman at IOM HQ, Tel: +41 79 103 8720, Email: jmillman@iom.int