“I’m happy a filter can be in my home!” Harriette says proudly crouched by her concrete bio-sand water filter she received last year. “We use the filter every day. I can collect a jerry can of dirty water from our local water source, pour it in and I can get enough clean water for the day. My children can just come and use it for their water, there is no more illness in my home”
This hasn’t always been the case for Harriette’s life here in Lusaze, Kampala. “Before we got the water filter I would boil 10 litres of water and that would last us about 3 days. The charcoal would cost me 3,000 shillings [the best part of a day’s wages]. I would use it for cooking and then once the food was prepared, I would boil the water to make it safe to drink. When the children are on holiday there can be 12 of us in the house. Sometimes I can’t afford more charcoal and my children fall sick. Without proper treatment, the symptoms from typhoid or diarrhoea can last weeks, even months.”
I heard that the local church were training people in hygiene and sanitation (this is run with A Rocha, Samaritan’s Purse Partner) and that this could reduce the risk of illness. I decided to go along.
“I learned how to keep my home clean and how to dispose of rubbish, wash utensils and store food properly. I also learned how to wash my hands with the soap they had shown us to make. As the training was going on they asked if anyone would be interested in getting a BioSand water filter. Those who were interested then got the opportunity to go to Gayaza, north of Kampala, where we participated in further training in how to construct our own water filter. I was so happy to see that these people were willing to share such a wonderful gift like this with us, without cost.
“The whole filter construction process was amazing. It felt good to be building a filter for a family like mine, to bring clean water to them.”
Harriette’s filter and her knowledge has benefited more than just her family. “When I finished the training and learnt all these good things, I told my friends and neighbours about what I had learned and 7 of them signed up to do the training! There is a woman in the community who has started a business collecting water for families, she brings the water here and filters it for them.
“My hope is that there will be no more sickness here. I’m happy that there are families who will be getting their own filters and will be able to provide clean water for their children”
Joanne lives in a slum in Nakulabye with her elderly parents and her children. There is limited space for all of them. She gets just 80 pence a day renting out some small rooms in the community.
"Life is hard here and it's worrying," she explains. "The biggest challenge we have here is water." Her family collect water from an unprotected spring well.
"The water is very bad, very dirty, our children play in this water. They often drink directly from the spring well when they are thirsty; they don't understand the dangers. We have a lot of cases of typhoid and diarrhoea among our children."
She then gestures over to the sewage ditch which follows the road close to this only water source. “It gets worse when it rains. During the rainy season people empty their latrines into the drainage ditch and it flows through the community. It’s really dangerous.”
"We use water for everything - bathing, cooking, washing and drinking. We use between 100-200 litres a day. We boil the water to make it safe, but it takes such a long time…it can take up to 5 hours to boil it. We boil 10 litres a day for drinking but have to allow time for it to cool first. We spend 2,000 Ugandan shillings (40 pence, half of Joanne’s daily wage) on charcoal to do this. We often don’t have enough money to buy charcoal for both cooking food and boiling water. When the boiled water runs out, we are forced to drink the dirty water.
The result is that her children get sick. "I buy medication for them but the tablets just reduce the symptoms, they don't really heal them. When their illness has been really bad, my children have been admitted to hospital. During those times I can't do anything but take care of my child. I can’t work, everything stops." Joanne points to herself, "When I am sick no one gets looked after. Typhoid weakens you so much you can do nothing for yourself."
Joanne gets to her feet and checks on the bubbling cooking pot beside her. “If there is an opportunity to make our water safe we would be very grateful. We can then have clean water readily available for the whole community. I hope that my community will have improved health and reduced cases of illness. A clean community where all these children can go to school”
Aberash Dabele has a message for Samaritan’s Purse supporters who enabled her to receive a BioSand Water Filter that is still working well after more than 20 years: “We are very happy and very thankful. God bless them for this gift.”
When Aberash and her family in Ethiopia received their filter in 1999, the average worldwide construction and installation cost to Samaritan’s Purse—along with providing vital hygiene and sanitation training—was £60 per filter. That original £60 investment is still providing safe water for Aberash and her family.
Today, the average worldwide cost of building and installing a BioSand Filter, plus the health and hygiene training, is £70. Over 20 years, that equates to only £0.50p a year—an amazingly low-cost and dependable way to transform people’s lives.
Aberash says her family’s lives were definitely transformed by their filter. Before then, she and her husband and their children would regularly become sick with potentially deadly diarrhoeal diseases including typhoid.
“We are much healthier today, ”Aberash says of her household of six, including grandchildren.
Since 1991, when Samaritan’s Purse began offering BioSand Filters in Ethiopia, we and our local Christian partners have built 32,000 in the African nation. Worldwide, through the construction of our BioSand Filters for households and larger-scale Samaritan’s Filters for schools and small communities, we have provided safe water to almost 1.7 million people.
As we’ve done this vital work, God has given us opportunities to tell people about a gift that’s even greater than safe water: “eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23, ESV). What a blessing God has brought through this ministry!
But sadly, someone – often a child – is dying every minute from diarrhoeal diseases caused by poor water quality and hygiene*. So the need for Samaritan’s Purse Water Projects remains critical and urgent. Please invest in deserving people like Aberash through your donations and prayers.
SOURCE: *World Health Organisation 2017.