Shallow Wells and Safe Water
Under the Healthy Villages Initiative, hygiene and sanitation interventions supplement innovative and comprehensive water chain interventions to ensure safe water from the source and into the home.
According to the World Health Organization, the objectives of a water safety plan are to ensure safe drinking water through good water supply practices, which include:
- Preventing contamination of source waters;
- Treating the water to reduce or remove contamination that could be present to the extent necessary to meet the water quality targets; and
- Preventing re-contamination during storage, distribution, and handling of drinking water.
Our water safety strategy for communities in our Healthy Villages program supports these goals through the following methods:
- Protected shallow well construction
- Improving hygiene awareness and behavior change through education
We strive for sustainability through local community and government resource contributions and expertise.
We educate our village communities about the importance of safe water in a variety of ways. We hold village outreaches about the importance of gathering water from clean water sources (even if it means a longer walk to the source), and importance of treating, or at least boiling water intended for consumption. We also educate villagers about the nature and danger of water-borne diseases contracted by drinking contaminated water. We may also bring in local Community Based Organizations (CBOs) to do educational performances or outreaches about safe water, similar to the CBO performances given on HIV/AIDs or malaria.
Throughout the years that we work in a village, UVP continues to facilitate safe water outreaches. Village Health Teams also continue to sensitize the community about the dangers of contaminated water, and how to best treat water for consumption.
We construct at least one shallow well in each of our Healthy Villages, using our already-established Community Constructed Shallow Well Program (CCSWP). Through our CCSW, we work in partnership with the District Water Office (which donates well parts) and the villagers themselves (who donate the land, do the digging, and provide food and shelter for the mason who lives in the village during the whole process). This method of partnership forges a sense of village ownership over the well, so that the community will continue to maintain and repair the well over the years, instead of looking to the government or UVP to provide this upkeep. (This is a common problem with NGO-built wells in Uganda.) We help the village to establish, if they do not have one already, a Water User Committee, who collects money from the villagers for just this purpose.
All well locations are chosen so as to reach at least 60 households, and for many families this is the first time they have ever had access to a clean water source. Over the course of our three years in each village, we hope to construct enough wells that every family is proximate to at least one clean water source. The number of wells required, therefore, depends on the size and lay-out of the village.
WaterGuard Provision and Supply Chain
At all village outreaches we sell WaterGuard to villagers, a water treatment product obtained trough PSI Uganda/PACE. Volunteer teams living in the village also sell WaterGuard from their house. While many villagers are initially skeptical about putting ‘a chemical’ into their water (‘Will it taste bad?’ ‘Is it bad for you?’), education and the provision of sample treated water wins many villagers over. Volunteer teams living in the village use WaterGuard to treat their own drinking water, and so each visit to the crowded borehole to gather and then treat water may serve as a mini-outreach on the benefits and safety of WaterGuard.
Besides selling WaterGuard directly, we set up a ‘WaterGuard distributor’ (usually a local shopkeeper, but sometimes a member of the Village Health Team), in each Healthy Village. This individual will sell WaterGuard perhaps indefinitely, sourcing straight from PSI Uganda. Each strip of 10 WaterGuard pills is sold for 50 shillings over its cost, enough of a profit to keep a shopkeeper or individual selling the product as long as demand is there. We help create that demand through our village outreaches, and Village Health Teams and other village leaders monitor the WaterGuard distributor, to ensure that he does not raise the price.
Our goal is to increase the household practice of water treatment – and therefore decrease instances of water-borne diseases – dramatically by the time we leave each Healthy Village. Uganda Village Project staff conduct follow-up with all villagers who buy WaterGuard, to ensure that they are using the product properly and to survey the household on the frequency that water-borne diseases are experienced.