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Providing Water to a Remote Population

By Emily Bamford, UNICEF Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Officer

The Healthy Villages and Healthy School Programme in the Democratic Republic of Congo is a government-run programme that aims to improve health conditions in the most vulnerable and remote areas of the country. Currently in its second phase (2013-2017), the programme is technically and financially supported by UNICEF and partners such as UKAid, USAID and the German and Belgian National Committees. During the first phase (2008-2012), the programme reached more than 2.6 million people. The second phase will benefit 6 000 new villages with more than 4 million people and 1250 new schools with more than 500,000 students. As of 2015, 4600 villages with 3.3 million people, and 1340 schools with 560000 students have been declared healthy.

November 2014, Bandundu - Ngaliema village is located in Bandundu Province, around 300km from Kinshasa, the capital city of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Last year, the community approached the Ministry of Health to request that they take part in the Healthy Village Program which is currently being supported by UNICEF in more than 4,000 communities across the country.

“We wanted to take part in the initiative because we were really struggling to get water”, explains Munsie Tampo, 75, the village Chief. “In 2013, the health zone staff came to talk to us, and we all took part in some demonstrations which helped us see how unsafe water and lack of toilets was affecting our community’s health.”

“Before the Healthy Village initiative came to Ngaliema, we used to fetch water from the river and go to the toilet in the forest,” explains Munsie’s wife, Angelique. “This contaminated the water. It also meant that women faced danger - there are a lot of snakes in the forest, at night especially, and it can be a scary place to be.”

Following the demonstrations by health zone staff, households began constructing their own toilets and handwashing facilities. The facilities are now almost complete, and the community is getting ready to be certified as a “Healthy Village.” All that remains is for the community to gain access to safe water.

Today, a group of 10 drillers have arrived in the village to begin manual drilling for water. The team will use a technique known as rotary jetting, which blasts water at high speeds to cut through the soil. It is hard work, particularly with temperatures exceeding 30 degrees, but the drillers are experts – they are able to hit water within 6 hours of drilling.

It is a big event for the community, with families visibly excited by the prospect of safe water. Everyone helps out wherever possible, including the children, who race to fetch watch from a nearby stream to fuel the powerful drilling machinery.

“You know, I had a dream that clean water came to our village,” explains Chief Munsie. “It’s something we’ve wished for such a long time now. But today it’s really become a reality. It’s a proud day for everyone living in Ngaliema.”