Ottawa Citizen Examines Water, Sanitation In East Africa

A series of articles by Ottawa Citizen reporter Chris Cobb examines water and sanitation in East Africa.  Cobb received a Kaiser Family Foundation Mini Fellowship for these reports. Summaries appear below.

  • An Ottawa Citizen article examines Canada-based charity WaterCan’s projects in East Africa. “This year, WaterCan has worked with local African partners to retro-fit more than 50 schools [in] Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Tanzania – and has just launched a major Christmas funding drive to expand their work in schools next year. In the past two years, the charity has spent more than $2 million on school and community water and sanitation projects,” according to the article.

The report notes the role schools play in educating children about the health benefits of clean water. “School health clubs are on the frontlines and key in educating fellow students – and adults in their home communities – in how to give themselves a fighting chance again typhoid, cholera and other life-threatening diseases that the lack of clean water and basic sanitation facilities breed” (Cobb, 12/20).

  • A story published on looks at access to clean water in a rural Kenyan district. “People here do what everyone does with water: Drink it, cook with it, wash clothes and bodies. Those who come to these communal watering holes typically attend to their laundry and personal hygiene on site. The few who can afford fuel might boil the water before consuming it. Fewer still will be able to afford the 30-cent purifying tablet that can treat 20 litres. Those who can are at least able to shorten the odds against contracting cholera, typhoid or the bilharzia, also known as snail fever. For most, water-borne disease is a part of life,” according to the article.

The story also examines how the drought in East Africa has affected water sanitation and what local and international aid agencies are doing to promote access to clean water (Cobb, 12/20).

  • A second Ottawa Citizen article focuses on the efforts of water entrepreneurs in Africa. “Clean drinking water, even for those who can afford it, is at a premium. Those who can’t afford it make do with dirty water. Widespread ignorance of basic personal hygiene makes bouts with disease inevitable,” according to the article. He highlights the efforts of W-GOTAFOGO, a group that “buys water from the Nairobi Water Co. and sells it at five cents for a 20-litre jerry can. It rents the toilet and shower facilities for less than $1 a month. The profit funds programs for young people, including a theatre group to spread positive social messages and soccer teams that compete throughout Nairobi.”

The article also includes information about a second group, called Maji Ufansi (Water Development). The “water entrepreneurs serve the needs of 180 ‘members’ who pay for their water, sanitation and showering needs at a WaterCan-funded facility. The group … operates three facilities. It’s been six years since they have been able to admit a new member, but casual users who come calling at off-peak hours are always welcome” (Cobb, 12/20).

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