What does Village Water do… and where?
Since 2004 we have been committed to helping end the water and sanitation crisis in Africa. Working alongside our independent African partners to install and repair water points in villages and schools, train communities how to build and maintain their own sanitation devices (toilets, hand washing points and bath shelters) and promote good hygiene practice like proper hand washing. Our projects reduce cases of common waterborne disease such a diarrhoea and improve health long-term. We also run educational sessions on taboo subjects like menstruation and early marriage to empower young girls and break harmful stigmas and traditions that stop them from thriving.
We collaborate with leading water, sanitation and hygiene education (WASH) charities, research institutes and funders to find locally appropriate and sustainable solutions and strengthen WASH networks already in place.
We have worked in Western Province and North Western Province Zambia since 2004 and Manica Province, Mozambique since 2015.
What does WASH mean?
Wash is an acronym used for water, sanitation and hygiene.
Why doesn’t everyone have water and toilets yet?
A huge wealth gap remains between developed and underdeveloped nations across the world.
Rural areas in Zambia and Mozambique live on a subsistence level and are often too poor to invest in anything but the very basics. While most developed nations enjoy immediate access to water and are well educated in hygiene, safe water is still considered a ‘luxury’ for many poorer rural communities in Zambia and Mozambique and they are the last to receive the access enjoyed by urban areas or forgotten about entirely.
Why don’t people dig their own wells and toilets?
They do, but it is not safe or sustainable. Water is drawn directly from rivers, or from scoop holes in the ground. Defecation out in the field is common and toilets in some community’s amount to just an unhygienic hole in the ground with no nearby facilities for handwashing.
Water from most wells is unfiltered and often a long walk away. Some villagers will boil their water, but this means collecting wood to burn, more work, fewer trees and harmful CO2 fumes that increase global warming.
Many communities are unaware of the links between poor WASH, particularly bad hygiene practice, and that’s why our partners don’t just provide the borehole and clean water, but also hygiene and sanitation training.
Why don’t people move closer to a source of water?
The distance to a water source will depend on many factors, climate, geography, land and farm ownership, wealth and size of a community. Poorer communities will find themselves with the least privileged access to clean water, instead using sources that are available to them – rivers, streams or digging holes in the ground.
Rainy and dry seasons will affect whether a river is flowing, flooding or not flowing at all.
A changing climate causes water levels to fall so families spend time walking to areas where a scoop hole can be dug. Unnecessary walking distance on a regular basis wastes time, particularly for women who do most of the work.
Why water? And what is the water crisis?
2.2 billion people lack safely managed water, 4.2 billion people lack safely managed sanitation, 3 billion people lack basic handwashing facilities at home (source). That number of people without the basics is a crisis.
The knock-on benefits of providing safe water to a community is huge. Apart from just simply saving time, access to safe water makes healthy communities, boosts education by keeping kids in school and in turn increases standards of living.
Availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all is a human right and one of the 17 UN sustainable development goals to which we align ourselves.
Why is providing access to clean water so important for women?
Healthy families mean healthy communities. Healthy communities access more education, can better support themselves and enjoy a higher standard of living. Easy access to safe water makes healthy families.
Women and girls traditionally do most of the work collecting water and their time could be better spent on other things. Carrying heavy containers of water long distances every day causes girls to miss the opportunity to go to school and causes severe neck and back pain. The walk alone can also be dangerous.
Women are the main carers, look after sick children, take them to clinics and buy medicine. Safe water reduces that burden on women, by reducing diarrhoeal diseases and infections.
Millions of girls around the world skip school or drop out all together when they have their periods.
Education among both boys and girls, as well as easy access to safe water and washing facilities are key to helping girls feel comfortable in school, especially in areas where discussing or admitting the subject is taboo.
Buying sanitary towels is seen as a luxury, among competing needs of a home, and poorer families will just do without. Girls will avoid school rather than risk an accident in public. Village Water partners address these issues, with both boys and girls, in menstrual health trainings where they will also learn how to make reusable sanitary pads.
Talking about periods not only helps women and young people who menstruate learn about their own bodies, it is also the only way that harmful misconceptions in society are going to change.
Why is boiling water to get rid of bacteria not a good thing?
Some villagers boil their water to kill off bacteria, but fire needs wood and collecting wood is yet another unnecessary thing to do, contributes to deforestation and adds to the world’s C02 output.
The typical cooking fire used to boil water causes prolonged smoke exposure to families and is associated with respiratory infections, eye damage, heart and lung disease, and lung cancer.
Why is there still a need, despite years of aid?
Access to basic facilities is improving: 91% of the global population now uses an improved water source, up from 76% in 1990. (source) But, for people living in the poorest areas of the world progress is stalling, and they are in danger of being left behind.
While Village Water has helped over 500,000 (Read Angelina’s story) people for over 15 years, there is a long way to go.
Why do you work in the countries you do, and not in others where there is need?
On a trip to Zambia, our founding trustee and civil engineer David Dixon, saw the desperate need for safe water in rural villages. He enlisted his friends and family to start fundraising and Village Water was born. Since then we have carefully chosen Mozambique as a second country because the Water, Hygiene and sanitation (WASH) sector is so undeveloped, we felt that with our small investment we could make a massive impact. Additionally, Mozambique is accessible from eastern Zambia and capital Lusaka from where we can transfer expertise and skills.
Why are the governments of Zambia and Mozambique not providing services?
Whilst it is the duty and responsibility of governments to support their populations, both Mozambique and Zambia are underfunded and under resourced and WASH is not as highly prioritized as it ought to be
Our goal is to engage with local governments as partners in building the system and infrastructure on a district by district basis, demonstrating how important and invaluable equitable WASH is to building a strong, fair society. We aim to create independent systems, locally funded, that work into the future.
Do you fund governments?
We don’t fund governments, but instead initially fund local partners who in turn train service provision teams on the ground who then can become financially independent.
We do, though, work in partnership with local councils to help build and implement our masterplan which aims to provide a full Water, Hygiene and Sanitation (WASH) infrastructure on a district by district basis.
How can I be sure my donation is going where it’s needed?
We keep detailed impact reports, that include photographs, records and data on everything we do. We follow-up all the villages where we have worked and, additionally, report back field stories and news on our website.
We review costings of equipment and resources needed for the projects regularly against current economic indicators and with finance teams in the UK and Africa. All project materials are procured from verified and approved sources, wherever possible, in-country. This supports local economies and ensures consistent quality.
How are communities involved in the process?
Every village member learns how to build their own toilet with hand-washing device from locally sourced materials and takes part in hygiene training and basic pump care. Often community members will assist manual drilling teams when installing a well with manual labour.
We encourage the communities we work with to pool funding together and to maintain their water systems long after we have left. A water committee is set up, made equally of men and women, and learn basic pump maintenance and continue encouraging good hygiene practice within their community.
Our investment provides initial WASH solutions to communities but importantly enables self-sustaining independent villages who can fund and maintain their own systems. How do I know your work is sustainable for the long term?
Everything we do aspires to long term local solutions. We have trained local enterprises who now continue to work independently.
Long term monitoring via follow-up visits from our local partner ensures extra support is available if needed – a look back study of 899 of our waterpoints installed between 2004 & now, shows 91% are working and we have plans to repair those that need it.
Because communities are actively involved in every stage of the projects, they take ownership and responsibility for the works.
We really can prove the impact too. Data collection and interviews with community members show us that diseases are reducing, quality of life is improving, and people are really benefiting.
Do you work in emergencies?
Yes, we work in emergencies. Cyclone Idai struck Mozambique in early 2019. Whole villages were destroyed and thousands of people were left displaced. The threat of cholera rose every day with the contaminated flood waters. Many community water pumps had been completely washed away and those still working were being over-used by hundreds of people who’d lost their own water source.
We were able to react quickly (partly due to the efficiency of being a small team) and began an emergency appeal. Our local partners, WATSAN, worked together with other emergency aid organisations to identify where and what support was needed. Kind donations from supporters helped), provide emergency supplies of water, soap and sanitary pads to those who’d been left with nothing and install new pumps where huge populations had been forced to move.
How are you responding to the COVID-19 crisis?
With our mission to bring safe water to communities, disease prevention is core to our work even in pandemic free times. Early on we adjusted our program to combat Covid 19 directly by focusing more on hygiene promotion, water point repairs and provision of handwashing facilities with soap/bleach, rather than working in new communities.
Our support enabled our partners to raise awareness through radio promotions, vehicle mounted loudhailers, small group trainings and posters and leaflets in key areas such as marketplaces and health centres.
How much of your expenditure goes on fundraising?
Village Water is a very small low-cost charity with a big impact:
Why don’t charities doing the same work merge together?
Developing the worlds water and sanitation infrastructure is a formidable worldwide endeavor involving many charities working in different parts of the world.
It makes sense for charities with shared goals in a region to join forces. We align ourselves with the United Nations Development Goals which brings organisations across the world together to achieve common goals. We now know this is the only way to ensure no one is left behind.
We do work in close partnership with many charities and particularly with our local partners.
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