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How clean water keeps people safe from crocodiles

Lives are put on the line every day in the Democratic Republic of Congo just to access basic essentials.

Written by Rachael Adams and Deo Kabeya | 18 Nov 2022

A child washing their hands at an outdoor water station

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, a child washes her hands in clean water at a camp for people who have fled violence. Tearfund has installed handwashing stations across the camp so people have access to water | Image credit: Arlette Bashizi/Tearfund

Around the world, billions of people are forced to go to extraordinary lengths just to find water, somewhere to wash or a toilet they can use. Meet the people from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) who had to put their lives on the line every day to access these basic essentials.

Despair into joy

‘We used to see people getting sick and dying a lot,’ shares Sango.

‘Even in my family, one of my children died from diarrhoea as we could not afford medical care for them. We had already sold our mattresses, plates and clothes to pay for medical care and had nothing else left to sell.

‘Because the children were ill so often, they couldn’t go to school and we didn’t have time to farm. We lost the respect of our community.

‘However, our despair turned to joy when Tearfund came to our village. We were shown the importance of good toilets in each household, and to wash our hands to prevent diseases, including diarrhoea.

‘We built our first family toilet with a handwashing device. Since then, it has been three months since anyone in our house has been ill!

‘We have time and strength to farm which means we can eat three meals a day instead of just one. Also, our children have been able to go back to school and we hope that after we have harvested our next crop we will be able to buy some clothes.’

A woman washing her hands

Sango uses a handwashing station that’s outside her new toilet. Since they’ve been installed, her family hasn’t been ill for three months | Image credit: Mavuno

What we needed most

‘We are so pleased to have been given this assistance… Other agencies have given us beans and oil before but this is not what we need,’ shares Wabanga.

‘We can find food in the fields, but the containers and buckets Tearfund gave us are impossible for us to get as they are too expensive.

‘Before this, I stored water in a basin with no lid and my family often suffered from diarrhoea and even cholera. I know that storing water like this can cause diseases, but I had no other choice.’

Wabanga lost one of her arms because of a crocodile attack when she was collecting water from a nearby lake. The kit she received makes it easier for her to wash.

‘I also struggled to wash my hands well, especially if no one else was with me,’ explains Wabanga.

‘I often couldn’t wash before eating and this meant that me and my children got sick. But now I have received this kit from Tearfund and I am so thankful. This kit makes it easier for me to wash, even if I am on my own, and the cans keep our drinking water safe and clean.

‘I hope that the work of Tearfund will stop more people, like me, losing their arms as they won’t have to collect water from the lake. This will also help to reduce diseases in our villages.’

A woman washing her hand

Wabanga lost one of her arms because of a crocodile attack when she was collecting water from a nearby lake. The kit she received makes it easier for her to wash and the lids keep the drinking water clean | Image credit: Mavuno

Saving grace for women

‘In my village, in order to get a jerry can of water, you had to wake up at 2am and you wouldn’t get home until 9am,’ shares Carine, who is 35 and lives with her husband and seven children.

‘The queues were very long and we had to sieve debris out of the water as we collected it.

‘We were at risk of being attacked as we went to collect water and our children often suffered from diarrhoea and vomiting because the water and our environment was not hygienic.

‘Today, these problems no longer exist.

‘Tearfund has built a source with a reservoir and we have five tap stands to collect water from. It was a saving grace for us women in the village. We no longer have to leave home so early to collect water and there are no long queues as five people can collect water at one time. In less than ten minutes I can now collect enough water.’

A woman smiling with water containers being filled from taps behind her

It now only takes Carine up to ten minutes to collect water for her family, thanks to the new water source in her village. Before, she had to leave the house at 2am and wouldn’t get home until 9am | Image credit: Mavuno

‘I feel safe’

Mauwa lives in a camp for people who have fled from their homes due to the ongoing violence in the DRC. She lives there with her husband and nine children.

‘I am very happy with the work Tearfund has done in this camp,’ says Mauwa. ‘Ever since I was born I thought showering was only for wealthy people or for those in hospital.

‘When I was young, I always washed myself late at night, behind the house or in the river and I was always scared that I might be attacked and that people would see me without clothes.

‘Sometimes I washed in Lake Tanganyika, but that is dangerous because there are crocodiles and I know people from our village who lost their arms because of this.

‘Tearfund has built toilet blocks and showers in the camp and I cannot express my gratitude – I feel honoured.

‘I can now have a shower before I go to church, when I come back from the market and when I have been working in the fields, and I feel safe when I do.’

A woman standing outside some outdoor toilet cubicles

The toilet and shower blocks that Tearfund has built in camps for people who have fled violence have made people like Mauwa feel safer | Image credit: Mavuno

Leading by example

‘We used to use our neighbour’s toilet, or just go in the bushes behind our house,’ shares Veronique, a mother of seven.

‘Because my husband is the chief, we were deeply embarrassed by this – our house should be a model for the village.

‘My family suffered a lot from diarrhoea and it meant we had to spend a great deal of money on medical care. This was a huge burden for us. We even lost one of our children to diarrhoea.

‘But after we participated in the awareness-raising sessions organised by Tearfund, we understood the need for a good family toilet, so we installed one with a handwashing device next to it.

‘Now that we are not sick so often, we have more money for food and we are even able to eat meat and fish each week. We hope that we will be able to buy new clothes and even send our children to school with the money we are now able to save.

‘We thank Tearfund for their work and we promise to lead by example and tell other people about the importance of household toilets and handwashing stations. This will help to reduce the cases of diarrhoea in the community.’

Why we do what we do

Around the world, 1.7 billion people don’t have somewhere safe and hygienic to go to the toilet, and one in four people around the world lack safe drinking water. The stories above highlight the devastating lengths people are forced to go to just to access these basic essentials.

‘People cannot overcome poverty and reach their God-given potential if they don’t have access to clean water and sanitation,’ shares Hebdavi Kyeya, who leads Tearfund’s work in the DRC.

‘Thank you to everyone who faithfully prays and gives to support this vital work – as you can see from the stories above, it makes such a difference. Lives are being transformed.’

Pray with us

    • Scroll back through the article and spend time praying for each person who shared their story about the difference water and sanitation has made. Praise God for the transformation and pray for good health and opportunities for them, their family and community.
    • Cry out to God for the people around the world who still don’t have access to clean water or safe sanitation. Ask God to protect them from illness and from being attacked. Pray for resources for Tearfund and other charities who are reaching people in need with these essentials.

Written by

Written by  Rachael Adams and Deo Kabeya

Democratic Republic of Congo Team

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