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February 6, 2009 - Latrines and clean water for Sherkole Primary

Today our first stop was at Sherkole Primary School. It has about 800 students from the five surrounding villages.

Some live almost 10 kilometres away and have to walk six hours a day to get to school! Even though the term had ended, dozens of students came out to meet us. When we got there, a team was working on a water pump and water tank that stores 3,000 litres of water. They were laying pipe to pump water from the nearby well to the tank, and then from the tank to the water pump on the school grounds.

It was really great to see the water system being constructed in front of us and to know that these children will have safe, clean water at school. UNICEF had also helped build new latrines for the students — separate ones for girls and boys. They’re clean, protected and have a hand-washing station so the kids stay safe and healthy. This is why I work for UNICEF - an organization that works on multiple levels to provide support to children in need.

Wanted: A health clinic with running water

Later we drove to the Homosha Health Centre, where a team had begun to drill for water. The centre serves over 800 households and it’s open 24 hours a day. It has seven nurses, one midwife and one pharmacist, but no doctor, pharmacy or running water.

I spoke to Mohammed Mussa, the head of the centre. He talked about the challenges of managing a clinic without running water (let alone without a doctor). He told me they hire labourers to get water, and that he was thrilled that they would finally have running water at the clinic. The team drilling the well was using the only light-weight drilling rig in the entire country, recently purchased by UNICEF. Fortunately UNICEF has secured funding to purchase another light-weight drilling rig so more teams can drill.

It’s really interesting to see how the drilling technically works and to understand how people determine if an underground water source is nearby.