By Sr. Pat Miller, CHM
Tanzania, Africa, faces huge challenges in providing adequate, clean and safe water for its rural and urban residents, as more than half of the rural population is dependent on unsafe water sources.
With the African government’s approval, the Society of the Divine Savior (SDS) has undertaken the task of providing clean and safe water for these people.
As Sisters of Humility, this goal matches our mission, “We strive to be attentive to the call of the spirit in the signs of the times, especially the needs of the poor and powerless.” We try to provide assistance not only in the Quad-City area, but wherever our Sisters serve and in areas of the world where need is desperate, as in Haiti and other countries. For three years we have provided support to the Divine Savior priests for a village well in Tanzania. The SDS Fathers place wells in areas of most need. The project seems endless, but each well makes a tremendous difference. In 2009 they completed wells in 21 villages. (We started supporting these well projects through the Sisters Water Project of the Dubuque Franciscans.)
Much of Tanzania is a desert area which has experienced years of drought. From the little water present, residents bathe, drink and wash their clothes. Their animals also drink and bathe in the same water. The people suffer from waterborne diseases such as typhoid, diarrhea and cholera. It is no surprise that the majority of deaths in Tanzania occur from the use of impure water.
Fetching water, which is also contaminated, is mainly the daily function of women and children, except for the huge containers which the men carry. Since they walk miles, this consumes many hours each day. This does not allow women or men to work in the home or go to productive jobs, and the children do not receive an adequate education. They often fail to go to school as they are too tired or are punished by teachers for tardiness. These factors prohibit socioeconomic growth in the culture.
During the last three years, we supported wells in the villages of Mackupa, Kisauke and Kisnide. Another neighboring village was also served by the Kisnide well. Combined, the two villages have about 3,000 people.
The results were amazing. These people are poor farmers, many with the diseases previously identified. Typhoid, cholera and other infectious diseases have decreased 80 percent after two years, increasing the life expectancy of the population. Additionally, better health allows them to embark on economic activities to better their lives. The people are trained to care for the wells and keep them purified. This is monitored by the SDS Fathers.
Crop production is promoted, as water is available for irrigation. People are taught how to raise different crops suitable for that climate.
Home environment is improved. The women have time to care properly for the children and engage in income-generating projects, developing handcrafts for sale in the larger cities.
School children, especially girls, were exhausted each day after miles of walking to fetch water and were late for school or did not go. With adequate water, they are physically and mentally ready to learn, which promotes their education. That, in turn, serves as the bulwark of a prosperous society.
The well projects have another great value as a unifying factor for the people of the villages. Since they do not have to compete for water, they are planning together how to develop the economic and political growth of their community.
Each well is a small step to an enormous problem. For each well project, all donors receive constant feedback from SDS Communications Director Henry Chuk Wuma Umeodum before, during and after the well is completed. His statement about the people’s appreciation of the well project says it all: “You are unwavering in your commitment to extend God’s love to those who find it difficult to attain even the minimum requirement for survival. You have placed in their midst a treasure they never imagined would accrue to them …”