An end in sight for an unnecessary situation in Tanzania
“The stark contrast between life with clean water and the struggle for existence without it stood out the most to me,” shares Rebecca Hey, GAiN’s Senior Grants Administrator, from her first trip to the Lindi District in Tanzania.
In July 2011, Rebecca, Dennis Fierbach, the Director of Water Strategies, and Jennifer Mullan, GAiN’s Marketing and Communications Manager, visited the Water for Life Initiative project in Tanzania. Over five days, twenty eight villages were visited in order to monitor the progress of the project as well as capture video footage.
In village after village, reports were given about the tremendous impact the project was making. Elderly women, who once had to rely on family members to walk long distances to fetch water for them, could now collect water from a well located right inside their village. Young children that previously experienced stomach illnesses on a regular basis were healthy and full of life. Students that used to miss hours of school a day for a single bucket of water, now attend all their classes.
But among the stories of hope, were moments of heartbreak. In the village of Tandika Nachunyu, GAiN’s well was situated near three open shallow wells. Each of these shallow wells only held a small amount of surface water, nonetheless dozens of women were busy drawing water. As the team talked to these women it became evident that GAiN’s well was not enough to provide clean water for this community of over 15,000.
One woman explained that in the height of the dry season women would sometimes fight over the little bit of water available. To avoid this, she wakes up at 2 a.m. to make sure her bucket gets a place in line for water. She lifted her leg to reveal a large wound on her calf; a result of falling as she tried to make her way to the well in the dark.
“Please, I want to impress upon you how much we need water” another woman exclaimed with fervency. “The line up for the (GAiN) well is long so all we can do is fish the garbage out of the open wells and continue to use them.” She went on, explaining that shoes, drowned animals and even feminine hygiene products had been found in the open wells. Her children that drink this dirty water often suffered from diarrhea and other waterborne diseases. Her moving plea was heard and Dennis assured her that GAiN would do what it could to help.
Less than 48 hours later, the team visited Tandika, a village with a similar name but with dramatically different circumstances. The atmosphere was bursting with anxious anticipation. Approximately 300 villagers crowded around to watch the GAiN crew complete the last few steps of the well installation process. Everyone held their breath as a village elder tried the well pump for the first time. As the water began to flow, the villagers erupted into loud cheers, claps and laughter. Amid the celebration, Rebecca watched as women with buckets in every imaginable color began pressing their way through to the front of the crowd. Their urgency brought Rebecca’s mind back to the women of Tandika Nachunyu and the image of GAiN’s deep water well situated only meters away from a shallow hand dug well. One well is a depiction of hope; the other disease and despair. For Rebecca, the disparity is a sharp reminder of how many in the Lindi region still lack access to clean water.