Through the internet, word of the accomplishments of Bread and Water for Africa® is spread to the four corners of the world.
And that includes even the far reaches of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
A few months ago, Lucian Beele, executive director of the nongovernmental organization (NGO), Technologies Appropriées pour le Congo, (TAC ASBL – Appropriate Technologies for Congo,Association Sans But Lucrative), in Kinshasa, was searching the internet for help for a Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) project it hoped to implement at a primary school.
“I learned of Bread and Water for Africa® through a Google search while researching NGOs working in the WASH sector,” Lucian told us.
After learning about our clean water development program which has funded the digging of wells, drilling of boreholes, protecting of springs and more – a total of 394 since 1997 benefiting millions in countries including Cameroon, Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe – he reached out to Bread and Water for Africa® Executive Director Beth Tessema with a request for assistance.
In his request, Lucian explained that he was seeking grant funding for a well at the Lac-Tumba Primary School in the community of Bikoro on the edge of Lake Tumba, the oldest school in the territory with 1,500 students.
“The school has no drinking water easily accessible to students or staff,” he said. “The lack of clean drinking water sources forces the students to drink contaminated water from Lake Tumba.”
For the students and staff, it’s literally a matter of life or death.
“As a result, not long ago, a cholera epidemic claimed the lives of many of these students.”
Lucian explained that the DRC “is one of the poorest countries in the world. Lack of access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation is closely linked to the extreme poverty and suffering that persists in the country, particularly in rural areas.”
That lack of access to clean water forces people to rely on surface water from streams, rivers and lakes that are often contaminated which puts them at risk of deadly waterborne diseases such as cholera, dysentery, typhoid fever and others.
In addition, Lucian noted that “four out of five people in the DRC do not have access to adequate toilets and practice open defecation which spreads parasites and contaminants to the same surface water sources used for drinking.
“Thus, a vicious cycle continues…spreading deadly diseases.”
Faced with this deplorable situation, Lucian told us that TAC was founded in 2018 “to fight this water crisis in the DRC, and help the poorest communities have access to clean water close to their homes, which helps women and children no longer having to make long walks to fetch water from unprotected sources.”
Despite the fact that the DRC is regarded as the world’s richest country in terms of natural resources reserves, Lucian reports that “while the government’s meager resources are diverted to conflict resolution, even less is done to improve the life of its people.
“As a result, the Congolese people continue to suffer from poverty and lack of infrastructure.”
To make matters even worse, the DRC (formerly known as the Republic of Zaire from 1971 to 1997) for decades experienced ethnic conflict and civil war and “during the conflict period, most nonprofit organizations left the country and have yet to return.”
Citing the United Nations, Lucian reports that the DRC “is the least developed country in the world in terms of life expectancy, education, standard of living and in key health indicators including maternal and infant mortality.”
At the Lac-Tumba Primary School the effects of the country’s poverty are apparent on a daily basis as during school hours, as it’s not unusual for some students to be sent out to fetch water from likely contaminated sources instead of remaining in their classrooms learning.
“Therefore,” said Lucian, “as part of our ‘WASH-friendly school program,’ we want to help the school to acquire a well equipped with a human powered pump in order to have access to clean water for the benefit of the students and the population of 500 residents living adjacent to the school.
“This school was chosen for this project and for the school friend of WASH program because of its capacity to receive students and its age. It is also among the schools that have many difficulties in terms of drinking water supply.”
Lucian told us the overarching objectives of the proposed project are to enable the school to gain access to safe water and sanitation, and to teach hygienic habits to the students as well as to members of the surrounding community.
“Research has shown that integrating hygiene education into WASH projects greatly increases the impact of the project on the target community,” says Lucien.
Another critical piece to the project is providing support to the entire community, strengthening its capacity for a self-sustained WASH program.
The Lac-Tumba school is not unique in its lack of clean water, as according the country’s Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, 85 percent of public and community schools do not have access to safe water, and 80 percent do not have functional latrines.
It is estimated that, each year 3.5 million school days are lost in the country due to diseases related to poor hygiene practices and a lack of WASH infrastructure.
“Working in one of the poorest countries in the world, we have a hard time finding local funding to support our projects, so we need partners who can combine their mission with ours to support our work,” says Lucian, who added in response to why Bread and Water for Africa® should partner with TAC on this project:
“Bread and Water for Africa® should work with us because our two organizations have similar visions and goals, and we also have the credibility, experience and commitment to produce sustainable results.”
Photos courtesy TAC asbl