As water projects improve health, they also contribute to economic development and productivity of the entire community.
In Zambia, young children and women walk several miles, up to five times a day, to reach a water well that works. When those are too far, people have no choice but to drink from surface water contaminated by human waste and garbage. This often causes great sickness and death. Repairing wells provides a source of clean drinking water, helping greatly to reduce death and illness due to waterborne disease.
The Abundant Health Initiative of The United Methodist Church has a goal of reaching 1 million children with health intervention by 2020. A U.S. congregation – Anderson Hills United Methodist Church in Cincinnati – has partnered with Global Ministries and the United Methodist Committee on Relief to help achieve this goal. During every Advent since 2008, Anderson Hills Church has raised money to build water wells in Zambia. As of December 2017, they had drilled more than 94 wells and saved 180,000 lives! In July 2011, they sent their first mission team to Zambia to visit some of the well projects they provided and to identify complementary ways to serve the people living in rural communities and minister to their spiritual needs.
Betty Tshala, the Global Ministries missionary leading the water projects in Zambia, said the initiative has contributed to environmental sustainability, reduction in child mortality and improvement in primary education. In Mwaisen, one of the communities benefiting from this project, two boreholes, four water-dispensing kiosks and 20 institutional latrines were constructed with mass education. Now 9,293 people and 925 households have access to safe and adequate water and sanitation facilities and hygiene education to keep them healthy.
The community-based approach adopted for the project empowered the community to manage the water supply and sanitation facilities. Active participation of the stakeholders and the beneficiary community was ensured from the beginning and at every stage of the project cycle. The community contributed locally available resources and labor for the construction. This ensured that the infrastructure could be maintained and remain useful for many years. After the construction, community caretakers were taught to operate and maintain the water and sanitation facilities. Community volunteers were also trained as hygiene educators to encourage the community to adopt healthy practices.
As the water project extends to more communities in Zambia, health status will improve, women’s workload will reduce and people will have more time to engage in agriculture and other income- generating activities. As water projects improve health, they also contribute to economic development and productivity of the entire community.