Measures Of Hope: RAIN Brings Water Within Rwanda’s Reach

Adelphine Uwiragiye

A little over one year ago, Christine Niyigena embarked on her daily journey to fetch water from the nearest water supply five kilometres away. There, she would meet a group of young school children carrying containers of the much-needed water back to school.

Adelphine Uwiragiye, a 17-year-old student, was not one of them. It was that time of the month again  and due to the lack of fresh water in her school and a concern for her own hygiene she had to stay home.
In fact, some of her classmates were not in school either. They too had stayed away recuperating from various waterborne diseases.
 
But that has now changed courtesy of the seven Replenish Africa Initiative (RAIN) projects recently inaugurated in five administrative sectors of Rwanda’s Kicukiro District at an investment of just over US$ 400,000.

The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation, in collaboration with Bralirwa (the local bottling partner), Water For People (WFP),

The girls’ section of the ablution block including shower. The boys’ section is behind the water tank
The Energy, Water and Sanitation Authority (EWSA) and the Government of Rwanda (represented by Kicukiro District Authority) has transformed the lives of 18,000 individuals, creating access to clean water as well as hygiene and sanitation education.

Together, the five organisations have provided opportunities for the local community to gain knowledge on rainwater harvesting and the construction of ecological toilets. In addition, a three-day session on hygiene has benefited 60 community health workers in the villages served by the water supply project.
     

Christine Niyigena sells water to one of the residents in the area.
Christine no longer walks long distances to pay US$0.31 (RwF 200) for a 20-litre jerrican of the precious commodity.

In December 2011, after paying EWSA a minimal fee to connect her tap to the municipal water supply, she started a water selling business and charges only US$ 0.031 (RwF 20) for the same container. Christine’s business is successful and has helped her pay rent, buy food and uplift her livelihood. Her tap serves 50 households daily.

It is lunchtime at the Gahanga School Complex and Adelphine joins other pupils for a quick round of games. She confides
that during her monthly cycle, she had to go home several times a day to change, as the school’s ablution block did not
have water. The unbearable inconvenience rendered the young teenager homebound, with no choice but to lose three days
of learning per month.
 

The local community celebrates the arrival of clean drinking water.
As a beneficiary of the RAIN intervention, her school has transformed and now has 10 ecological toilets fitted with hand washing stations. Split across gender, the girls’ facility is also equipped with sanitary pads, showers and an incinerator. A smiling Adelphine and many other girls in the school now study uninterrupted. They can freshen up with ease and comfort within the school. In addition, the ecologically friendly toilets use technology that separates solid and liquid waste. These are turned into safe, wet and dry fertilizers that can be used in the school garden.

Epafrodite Hategekimana, the school’s accountant, recalls how the 41-year-old school once had 24 toilets in poor condition.
“Children had to carry water from home and we couldn’t always guarantee the safety of what they brought in,” he says.
“Furthermore, the learners had to walk long distances to get the water. It was costly and unproductive.”
 

Rear view of the eco san toilets. Inside the covered pits, solid and liquid waste is separated and later turned to fertilizer for the school farm.
In 2009, a Water and Sanitation committee, which included two parents, two teachers and two students was set up to oversee the improvement of hygiene at the school. According to Gilbert Gapira who heads this team, there has been improved academic performance since the RAIN project commenced.

“Pupils no longer stay out of school nursing waterborne illnesses,” he says, adding that hygiene has improved thanks
to an established timetable for cleaning the latrines. “They are required to keep the toilets and showers clean.”
 

Rene Matala (CEWA, 2nd right) and Perpetue Kamuyumbu (WFP, far right) with EWSA and Kicukiro District Representatives at the hand over ceremony
Perpetue Kamuyumbu, the WFP Country Director agrees. “Hygiene education is carried out in the classroom giving every pupil a balanced combination of theory and practice,” she said. “The concept is so ingrained in the children that they go home and demand for toilets like the ones they see in school.”

Speaking at the handover ceremony in Kigali, Rene Matala, the Country Manager for Rwanda and Burundi in the Central, East and West Africa (CEWA) Business Unit, confirmed that the RAIN partnership would continue in 2013 in the Gatenga sector.

Rwanda’s Vision 2020 estimates that only 52% of citizens have access to clean water. Daily consumption is estimated at 8.15 litres per person in rural areas, far below the international standard of 20 litres. Through RAIN interventions in the country, the Coca-Cola system is bridging the gap in water and sanitation access.

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