We work with communities to design the most appropriate water and sanitation solution for that community based on an environmental assessment and what the community wants. Potable water is an essential component in our fight against malnutrition. Water-borne illnesses such as diarrhea can be fatal, especially to children suffering from chronic malnutrition. Sanitary and hygienic homes offer healthier environments for families. For this reason, we educate families on the importance of hand washing, using latrines, and removing waste water from homes via our gray water filtration system. Potable water and efficient stoves lessen the need for firewood, thereby decreasing deforestation and erosion. Water no longer has to be boiled and less firewood is needed for cooking. Improved indoor air quality due to efficient cook stoves saves lives; the World Health Organization reported 4.3 million deaths in 2012 that were attributable to indoor air pollution, 19,000 in the Americas alone.
Women and children are the traditional water bearers and wood gatherers in these communities, spending several hours a day on these tasks. Without these responsibilities, girls can stay in school, and women have more control over their time. Keeping girls in school is a long-term objective in increasing women’s autonomy in the home. As women are empowered to make decisions about time allocation in the home nutrition improves for the whole family.
A typical water and environmental sanitation project agreement will include a plan to:
- bring running water to each household or to key points in the community;
- ensure that water is chlorinated or appropriately filtered;
- install gray water filters and ecological latrines;
- build improved cook stoves that ventilate smoke outside the house and use less firewood;
- develop other environmental measures such as adequate disposal of solid waste, and
- create a health education plan to ensure that families adopt appropriate hygienic practices such as hand washing.
Each beneficiary family signs a commitment to pay a monthly assessment that goes to a pooled fund for maintenance and repairs, as well as to share in communal activities to monitor and maintain the system. When the project begins, community members provide basic coordination and oversight, manual labor, locally available building materials and a percentage of the cost of hiring the needed professional/technical consultants. The municipal government provides some technical and monitoring support and some of the materials that are not locally available.
We provide most of the materials that are not locally available and supports and mentors the local committee to coordinate the whole process, which takes approximately one year to complete.