Piwa Maleng: Bringing clean water closer to home
A mother’s desire to protect her children is universal. For Pamela Awilngom, a 36-year-old mother of three from Amuru District, Northern Uganda, this desire comes with an impossible choice: to allow her children to drink contaminated water, or to see them go thirsty.
Pamela and her three young children live in Awil village, where there is no direct water source. Instead, they must make the two-kilometre round-trip to the neighbouring village of Logolo to fetch water from a single well that is shared by people and animals alike.
"The water is very dirty"
“We do not have clean water here,” says Pamela. “There is the well in Logolo, but it is also used by cows and sheep, and the water is very dirty. People here struggle with diarrhoea, malaria, and headaches because of this water. I have also had family members suffer from skin diseases and typhoid.”
Despite the dangers, Pamela and her children have no choice but to use the dirty water for drinking, washing, and cooking. This Mother’s Day, please make a gift to Amref Health Africa to support our efforts to bring clean, safe water closer to home for Pamela and her family.
In Pamela’s community, women are the sole providers for their families – and the responsibility for fetching water typically falls to the daughters as they prepare to one day become the breadwinner for their own family. However, for many girls travelling alone early in the morning or late at night, sometimes men wait along the route to sexually assault them or offer money in exchange for sexual favours. This can result in unwanted or underage pregnancies, as well as sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
“The risks that come with fetching water are very high, especially for children,” says Pamela. “To make matters worse, we have very few functioning toilets in the village, so people will often use the bush instead. Then, when the rain falls, it washes away the faeces and further contaminates the environment, making the water yet more unsafe. I have been digging a hole to use as a toilet, but it is still a very unsanitary environment.”
Our Clean Water
Since 2016, Amref Health Africa has worked with the communities of Amuru District to bring clean, safe water closer to home. Through the Piwa Maleng project (Acholi for “Our Clean Water”), funded by Amref UK supporters, we have been able to establish access to clean water for 14,700 people living in 45 villages in the region. Amref has achieved this by drilling additional boreholes, repairing those that were no longer working, and providing training for village members to maintain their safe and proper use for years to come. Thanks to your support, the number of people in the area who now have access to safe water has risen from 32% to 98%.
The next challenge
Now, the Piwa Maleng project is taking on a new challenge: to extend access to clean water even further, including to Pamela’s village of Awil. At the same time, we will address the dangers girls and women face while making the trip from their home to their nearest water source. In addition to drilling or repairing boreholes, and setting up pioneering solar-powered water systems to provide villages and schools with safe water, we will train young people – especially girls – on their sexual and reproductive health and rights. This will help them understand how to protect themselves and each other, as well as their futures, by reducing rates of STIs and teenage pregnancies.
All images © Esther Ruth Mbabazi for Amref Health Africa, 2021