Pokuase, a village with a population of 14,000, is located in the Greater Accra region of Ghana. The people of this area are mainly involved in farming and petty trade, and have been using the local Nsaki river as their source of water for many years. They use this water for all purposes, including washing, drinking, bathing and cooking.
The fact that the water from this river is not potable poses various problems for the villagers. People were afflicted by water related diseases common to the region such as cholera, dysentery, guinea worm, Bilharzia and the deadly Buruli Ulcer, among others. Skin irritations are also common from bathing in contaminated water.
Most affected are women and children, who are the primary people in the household to fetch water. Often, when rainfall is inconsistent, they spend hours searching for sufficient quantities of water, which cuts into the time they could spend getting an education or working in the home. During the dry season, school children spend hours looking for water and often arrive late for school, are absent or too tired to concentrate when they do arrive.
Child mortality rates and the hours spent by mothers in hospitals and on child care are also high. In addition to losing time spent on fetching water, those most in contact with the contaminated water are most likely to be sickened by it.
The region’s government has never had the full resources to provide water services to its people, especially as the population around the Greater Accra Region has been increasing at an extremely fast pace. This population increase is further exacerbated by issues of migration into the area; equitable distribution of national resources is a major governmental issue and one that is not easily solved.
Alberta Kuwornu, a resident of Pokuase, notes that several projects initiated have taken a very long time to complete, or are left open ended.
Things improved once Pokuase invited WaterHealth to build a facility in their community. Because water is easily accessible and pure, the amount of time spent searching for and attempting to sanitize one’s own water is down to almost nothing. More than 65 percent of the community has been reached in some way by the WaterHealth Center.
The benefits to the area’s children are clear.
Aisha Sa-id, founder and President of Orphans and Needy Help, said, “At first we had bad water from the dam, which gave us guinea worm and Buruli Ulcer and several other diseases. Thanks be to God WaterHealth came to save our lives. The water from the dam had all kinds of things in it: leaves, fecal matter, cows and goats drinking from it, and so it gave the water some brown color.
So we have to cook [boil] it, cool it before we can use it and even then, when you bathe with it your body itches all over and sometimes you will see worms coming out of your body. About 100 of my pupils/orphans got Buruli Ulcer.
To WaterHealth I say, you have saved our lives. Without you, I don’t know how many more people will be infected. The water is so clean that when you look through it, it’s so clean that you can even see yourself. The gallons [containers] they provide will prevent people from putting their hands inside. When you drink it, you know you are drinking very safe water. I know with this there will be no more diseases, there will be more cleanliness and we are drinking safe water, so we say a very big “thank you” to WaterHealth’.
Justice Nyarko, head of the primary school in the area, has praised the center for solving many of his students’ health and attendance issues: “Formerly, the water here is not good at all. We used to drink water from the dam with animals. People also defecated around there so we were afflicted with lots of diseases, including Buruli Ulcer.
We are all happy about the WaterHealth facility, especially the student. I used to lose a lot of them due to Buruli Ulcer, tummy aches, diarrhea, headache, etcetera. And you know, when someone gets Buruli Ulcer, they will not come to school again. But now, we don’t have that problem. The water helps us with saying bye-bye to Buruli Ulcer.
The facility is near my school so the children can easily get drinking water. We hardly spend money these days on health issues, so I am personally very happy about the WaterHealth Center.”