A Feel-Good Look Back: How Water Improved Health in 2023

Wednesday, December 20th, 2023

We talk a lot about the devastation of the water crisis here at The Water Project, trying to get the urgency of its effects across to people who might not understand. But that’s only one perspective. The other side we’re sharing today is how lives improve drastically once donors like you help bring safe, reliable water into a community.

As we approach the end of 2023 (can you believe it?), it’s good to look back and realize how far we’ve come since we started work this year.

One of the best ways to measure our impact is through improved health: one of the most immediate impacts of an improved water source. Restoring health and stopping preventable deaths are two of the biggest reasons we work so hard to bring clean water to those who don’t have it. 

Knowing intellectually that clean water restores health is one thing. Reading the stories of the people whose bodies are slowly recovering is another. That’s why we thought we’d share these heartfelt quotes from people who underwent this miraculous transformation in 2023.

Increasing Reach and Saving Lives at Health Centers

We spoke with nurse Janet Allieu each time we visited her health center.

“The water challenge is affecting me greatly,” she had said during our first visit to find out the extent of the water crisis’s effects on Susu Gospel Health Center, where Janet works. 

She had listed out all the clinic’s needs for water (which, as you can imagine, are plenty). 

“Fetching water was difficult before the construction of this water point. There was no water to clean the labor room after a pregnant woman had delivered. We [went] to other communities to fetch water,” said Janet.

Each container of water required a 20-minute walk one way and sometimes a long wait in line during peak water-collection times.

But now that the health clinic has had its water source for over a year, everything has improved for Janet, the health center, and the entire surrounding community the center serves. 

“Fetching water [has] become easy since the completion of this project. We no longer go out to the community to fetch water,” Janet said.

Janet (on the right, in the pink and purple scrubs) celebrates with other staff and community members at the new well’s dedication ceremony in 2022.

“I have achieved goals that are important towards the clinic. There is sufficient water to clean the labor room and also to use at the restroom. We are also able to use the handwashing station due to the sufficient water we get from the water point,” concluded Janet.

Nurse Sadiatu Wurie had similar things to say when we visited Malap Community Health Center in Sierra Leone.

“I want to take this opportunity to say many thanks to you for the immediate response to our aid,” Sadiatu said. 

“Before this time, we were having a lot of problems in the area of giving birth to babies in this health post because, during the time when there was no water available, we had to send someone to the stream to fetch water for the patients that had been admitted in [the] health post.”

Collecting water is now much simpler and quicker for Sadiatu, the other nurses, patients, and community members who rely on the well at Malap Community Health Center.

“We are very happy for this big development that you have provided for us. The availability of this water point has saved many lives, especially when the women are in labor. Moreover, it is water we give to the patients,” continued Sadiatu.

“Our plan or goal before was to have a water [point] where we could fetch safe drinking water to save the lives of children in this community. Now you have made it possible for us to help in saving the lives [of] women and children in the time of labor.”

Another place where water has been saving lives for over a year is the Mathen Maternal Child Health Post in Sierra Leone.

“Life in the health facility was not easy since we did not have access to [a] good water facility. To fetch water, we [had to] go to the community. It was not easy, especially when we would be busy with work at the health facility,” said Nurse Kadiatu Kamara.

Kadiatu washes her hands at one of the clinic’s handwashing stations, filled with fresh water from the newly rehabilitated well.

“Today, with [your] help through [the] provision of this water well, I can now fetch water to cook, to launder, and even to practice good menstrual hygiene. This was hard to do when we did not have access to this,” continued Kadiatu.

Having ready access to water from the well has made a difference for Kadiatu, allowing her to perform all her nursing duties, including keeping the environment sanitary for herself and her patients.

“I am now able to clean the health facility and take care of the latrines due to water availability. In the same way, treatment can be given to patients easily,” concluded Kadiatu.

Restoring Hope and Brightening Futures at Home

While getting water to health centers is a fantastic way to impact an entire community, so is giving a water source directly to the community members for their daily use.

In Bintu’s community of Madina, swamp water caused water-related diseases that claimed children’s lives. But now that the community has its own rehabilitated well, that has changed dramatically.

“I want to [say] many thanks to you,” Bintu said. 

“When this water point was not here, we had to go all the way down to the swamp to fetch water, but [the] water was not good for our health, and as a result of that, so many children were dying because of the diseases they got from the water.

“This water has helped improve the health system in this community because our children are no longer dying from the waterborne diseases that were affecting them before. Moreover, I am a farmer. This water point has helped us to water our garden, and from this garden, we get income to feed and clothe our children.

This water point has helped us to achieve so many things in this community. We can now use this water to grow our vegetables, which provides income for us. We used this to cook our food at home. Also, we use this water to do our domestic work,” concluded Bintu.

The women of Madina celebrate the rehabilitation of the local well that has improved so many lives.

In many cases, it’s not just the water that brings about a health change in the community — it’s the new knowledge community members gain when we train them to improve their hygiene and sanitation standards. Such was the case for Bernard from Machemo Community in Western Kenya.

“Sincerely, I used to enjoy [the spring],” Bernard said. 

“I would wait [for] when everyone was gone, [then] enter into the pool of water and take [a] shower. It was so satisfying, but in the long run, I could [have] diarrhea and painful stomachaches as a result of consuming the same water.

“Since this spring was protected, I no longer receive painful injections as a result of having diarrhea and stomachaches. [I] am so healthy and energetic to both concentrate [on] my studies and also help my mum with house chores, including fetching water.

“I can categorically say that since I started consuming clean water and having access to better sanitation and hygiene standards, my health has improved. I never miss class lessons. Last term, I recorded an improvement in my academic performance, and I was so excited,” concluded Bernard.

Bernard cups his hands beneath the protected spring’s pipe.

“Having reliable water and accessing it without any difficulty will impact my life very positively,” said 12-year-old Mirrel S from Makhwabuye Community in Western Kenya. “I will not suffer any sickness resulting from waterborne diseases like before.”

“I will be able to attend my classes at school on all the days on the calendar,” Mirrel continued. “Before this water point was completed, I was a frequent absentee because of typhoid and diarrhea. I will achieve my goal of becoming a nurse since I will have enough time in school and even at home for my studies.”

And often, as in the case of Bernard and Mirrel’s grades, better health has ripple effects (pardon the pun) that extend into other areas of people’s lives.

“I am no longer as worried as I was in the past,” said 42-year-old farmer Dorcus Weyusia from Shihome Community in Western Kenya.

“Now that the water point is fully protected, I rest assured that all the routes of contamination have been curbed. I used to spend a lot of money on medication for my small child, but now I will use the money to pay for school, and my child will be at school throughout, which will improve his performance. This is the joy of every parent.”

“It was so challenging to get clean water, especially during rainy seasons,” said Jonathan from Ikoli Community in Western Kenya. 

Jonathan at the year-old protected spring.

“We had to use a lot of time and energy to boil water for drinking and domestic use, which was so expensive. Most of our family were being affected by water-related ailments because sometimes we had no firewood to boil the water.

“I now drink clean water anytime [with] no health effects, especially during [the] rainy season. As a father, my children and I are now healthy because [the] water is clean. We no longer use the small amount of money I had [for] treatment but to improve farming production.

“My plans or goals after the implementation of this project were to ensure the water point is maintained to be used by future generations. Lastly, because the time wastage is now recovered, I will ensure that I improve in farming activities to improve the living standards of my family,” concluded Jonathan.

Even for those who think about the water crisis daily, it’s difficult to imagine the scope of all the individuals whose lives are now unrecognizable because they now have a source of safe, reliable water until we bring multiple stories together. From these collected stories, we can expand this idea outward to grasp how many people must live richer, healthier, better lives thanks to your generosity. 

During this time of year, we encourage you to recognize your impact on your global community and remember all the positive changes you nudged into being. Remember the joy now eclipsing the heartbreak and strife that once dogged these communities and forced them to struggle under the endless burden of the water crisis. Celebrate this season of goodwill and giving with love, knowing you’ve done something remarkable.

If you’ve contributed to our mission this year, even if it wasn’t directly to the people we quoted above, we are so grateful to you. We hope you continue with us on this journey toward 100% water coverage in our service areas. One day, we hope everyone in Kenya, Uganda, and Sierra Leone will be able to speak about their water struggles in the past like these people do. When that day comes, we’ll be celebrating right alongside you!

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Jamie Heminway

Jamie is a storyteller by nature. In joining the Water Project, she’s finally found a workplace where that pesky bleeding heart of hers can be put to use (and, less importantly, that BA in English Language & Literature from New England College).