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New Program Launches to Reach Schools in D.R. Congo

Over 1500 students will get access to safe water, sanitation, and hygiene education for the first time.

 

Children at five primary schools in northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) will benefit from a new water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) program beginning this month. Lifewater, together with local development professionals, will help construct rainwater catchment systems and ventilated, improved pit (VIP) latrines for over 1,500 boys and girls at schools in Nebobongo.

The DRC, a large country in central Africa, is covered mostly by forest and rich in natural resources, but lack of infrastructure, rampant corruption, and ongoing ethnic violence limit development work. More than half of the population does not have access to safe water, and over two thirds do not have improved sanitation such as a pit latrine. The result is endemic water-borne diseases that contribute to the country’s nearly 12 percent child mortality rate, making DRC one of the top five countries for under-five deaths globally.

The program aims to prevent sickness and death in these children and their families by helping them gain access to a sustainable source of safe water with rainwater catchment tanks installed on school roofs. Additionally, the Lifewater program works with school teachers and local health care providers to promote the use of latrines and healthy hygiene practices like handwashing. The Center for Disease Control estimates that handwashing with soap could alone prevent one third of diarrheal sickness in young children.

The pilot program reaches into a remote, densely-forested area. Lifewater Program Director Dr. Pamela Crane-Hoover claims, “The people of Nebobongo are extremely underserved.” Crane-Hoover says that while there are easier places to run WASH programs, even in DRC, the innovations employed in Nebobongo can help to reach millions of others in underserved regions. “There is very little modern building material, including brick and cement, even rocks. By working with international suppliers, local partners, and the community itself we are really laying the foundation of possibility in this area.”

One innovation includes the use of Interlocking Stabilised Soil Block (ISSB), a strong brick made on-site without firing in a kiln, which saves trees that would be used for firing and reduces air pollution and carbon dioxide emissions. The interlocking feature also reduces the need for mortar and cement, which is drastically more expensive in these remote areas. The ISSB bricks will be used for constructing the rainwater catchment tanks and latrine blocks.

“The decision to start this pilot program in primary schools is very intentional,” continued Crane-Hoover. “Everyone in the community is invested in the well-being of their children, and young children are often the first to adopt the behavioral changes necessary to improve their entire family’s health.”

Lifewater is especially thankful for the E4 Project and their involvement in helping to bring this exciting project to life.

Lifewater International is a non-profit Christian water development organization dedicated to effectively serving vulnerable children and families by partnering with underserved communities to overcome water poverty. With experience in more than 40 countries since 1977, Lifewater serves people of all faiths, focusing on contextually appropriate water sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) development. For more information, contact Christine Zurbach (czurbach@lifewater.org) or visit www.lifewater.org. Lifewater International is based in San Luis Obispo, CA.