Friday, March 11, 2011

Cameroon:How Affordable is Potable Water for Communities?

The health effects of diseases associated with water are heavily concentrated in developing countries particularly among the poorer urban and rural households of the poorer countries. Nearly half of the population in developing countries suffers from health problems associated with water.

Diseases arising from the ingestion of pathogens in contaminated water or food have the greatest health impact worldwide. Water borne diseases are the largest single category of communicable diseases contributing to infant mortality (1500 million episodes of diarrhoea and some 4 million deaths per year).

The pathogens are often symptomless in carrier individuals ,and sometimes, in animals not susceptible to them, and they can survive varying periods of time in water and be swallowed with it. They include those at the origin of the classic epidemics- cholera, dysentery and typhoid fever- and a considerable variety of other microorganisms, including protozoa (e.g., amoeba) and viruses (e.g., hepatitis A). They may be found in untreated water contaminated by human and animal excreta or remains, or in water handled unhygienically after treatment, as often happens in water shortages for hydrological or economic reason.

In Cameroon, only some 40-42% of the population have access to potable drinking water. Presently ,the flow rate is 36% with Camwater Utilities Corporation faced with the challenge of increasing the flow rate to 60% by the year 2015.

This in a bid to meet up with the UN Millennium Resolution that by the year 2015, “the proportion of people living in extreme poverty, suffering from hunger, or unable to reach or afford safe drinking water”, should be reduced by half. The present situational realities and our experience with the National Water Resources Master Plan and other previous policies evoke a strong feeling of déjà vu.

To date, efforts to provide potable water for our communities (towns and cities) have been concentrated exclusively on large schemes which are very expensive and involve laying pipes over long distances. Very little attention is paid to small schemes which are more cost effective.

The provision of safe water and the management of wastewater have had a central role in reducing incidence of many waterborne or water related communicable diseases. Diseases associated with contaminated water remain among the most serious public health problems in most part of Cameroon as far as the population is concerned.

It was against this background that a five day training workshop on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene and the construction of the Biosand Filter was organized by the Association of Women for Peace, Buea from the 28th February- 4th March 2011.

The training workshop which dwelt on the relationship between Water and Health, Water Protection and Treatment Options, the Construction, Installation, Operation and Maintenance of the Concrete Biosand Filter and Project Planning was sponsored by the Global Women’s Water Initiative and the Centre for Affordable Water Sanitation and Technology, Canada.

Co- facilitation was done by- CREPA- Centre Regional de l’Eau Potable et Assainissement- Cameroon. The workshop drew participants from women’s organizations, NGOs, some councils in the South West Region and governmental departments.

For five days participants were drilled on different themes which included the Water cycle, Three types of contamination, Safe water, Introduction to the Biosand Filter, Why Biosand Filter for storage and maintenance of potable water in the household, Introduction of the different components of a Biosand Filter, sand and gravel sieving, Water related diseases, Transmission of Water related diseases, Video projection, Multi barrier approach, the Three Steps in Household Water Treatment, washing of sand, pouring the filter and demolding the filter, Household Water Treatment Options, the characteristics and importance of safe water storage, and trouble shooting etc.

The training ended with participants coming up with Action Plans on how they intend to share the knowledge acquired in their different communities. Participants were equally given the opportunity to evaluate the training.

The workshop was opened and closed by the Lady Mayor of the Buea Council who personally awarded the end of course certificate to participants. She equally had some good words for the organizers, sponsors and the participants. But for her, the following also had something to say on the training workshop: the President of the Association of Women for Peace, Mme Mwenguella Catherine, the Regional Coordinator of the Association of Women for Peace, Lobe Michael; the Regional Delegate for Women Empowerment and the Family for South West and Emilie Sanmartin, the main facilitator and representative of the Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology, Canada.

The training workshop had both theoretical and practical sessions. It ended with the award of certificates to participants.

It should be noted that this workshop addresses the three crucial concerns in the relationship between water and health. The first is the constraints faced by water-poor regions (countries) and their impact on human activities. The second is the maintenance of water quality in the face of growing demand.

The third is the direct link between health and water, especially diseases associated with insufficient and poor quality water.

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