TACOMA, Washington — The Central African Republic is a landlocked country in Central Africa that has been struggling with ongoing violence and civil wars for many years. This country has ranked second to last in the Human Development Index since 2018, with an estimated 79% of the population living in poverty and more than 3 million citizens requiring humanitarian aid. The widespread poverty and instability in this region have led to another problem that adds to the risks of everyday life in the Central African Republic—the lack of clean and accessible water.
There are many different charities and organizations that strive to bring clean water to African regions affected by poverty by drilling wells. However, an integral and often overlooked part of achieving water access for impoverished communities is maintaining these wells in the long term so that water remains accessible even after the initial volunteers have left. Water for Good, an NGO in the Central African Republic, is working to combat this issue and create a sustainable system of accessible water by building sustainable wells in the CAR.
The Effects of Water Scarcity
Lack of safe, accessible water perpetuates the cycle of poverty in many regions. Around 844 million people around the world do not have readily accessible clean water. The problems caused by water scarcity disproportionately affect women and girls in rural areas.
In many countries, women are held responsible for gathering and transporting water. Women in African regions affected by poverty and water scarcity typically walk four miles and carry 40 pounds of water each day. The time and energy spent gathering water takes away from the ability of women and girls in these areas to get an education or have a job.
Water shortages also have negative effects on health and hygiene. Globally, 2.3 billion people lack access to adequate sanitation and over 800 children under age five die every day from illnesses related to poor sanitation and water quality. Providing easily accessible and clean water improves impoverished communities’ living conditions and allows families to rise out of poverty.
In an interview with The Borgen Project, Gwen Debaun, a development specialist at Water for Good, states as “disease rates drop, kids can go to school and get an education instead of having to walk miles to get clean water. Women can get jobs and provide financially for their families instead of using their days collecting water. Access to clean water is truly life-changing!”
Water for Good: Building Sustainable Wells
Water for Good is an organization that works on the ground in the Central African Republic to build and maintain wells that provide safe and accessible water for people living in rural areas affected by poverty. This organization is currently the largest water provider in the CAR, serving more than 880,000 people in the region. It has installed more than 1,800 wells throughout the country by working with a local drilling company and employs more than 20 local Central African workers to repair and maintain these wells after they are built.
The organization also has a radio station that broadcasts weather updates and hygiene lessons in both French and the local trade language of Sango. The station receives around 100,000 listeners each day. Water for Good has orchestrated its strategy to increase water access in the CAR by dividing the country into focus regions in order to analyze the number of people and their needs in the absence of a countrywide census. The organization is currently on track to provide wells accessible to every man, woman and child in the Central African Republic by 2030.
Ending Water Scarcity in the CAR
Though water scarcity in the Central African Republic is still an issue, Water for Good has made significant progress toward its goal of ending the water crisis. The organization has drilled more than 900 new wells across the country and repaired more than 900 broken or abandoned wells. Water for Good’s wells throughout the country are currently at 96% functionality, and it aims to reach 100% functionality in the focus region of Mambéré-Kadéï by 2022.
This is a significant improvement on the state of overall water projects in sub-Saharan Africa, where only 40% are currently functional. In 2020 alone, Water for Good has served 1,391 communities and worked on 115 new wells. Water for Good’s wells can remain reliably functional in the long term because of the organization’s commitment to employing local workers to perform continuing maintenance once the wells have been built. Not only are these workers able to remain in the communities to work on the wells after the initial volunteer teams have left, but they are also more familiar with the needs of the communities and how to navigate possibly dangerous circumstances and terrains in the Central African Region.
Water for Good plans to use this system to create a model of delivering clean water that can eventually be replicated throughout the entire country and eventually other regions suffering from water scarcity.
“Having access to clean, safe drinking water breaks the cycle of poverty because it allows young people to go to school and get an education and create a true change in the world,” says Debaun. “When you bring clean water to a community, this will allow the community to continue to grow and bring businesses.” Water for Good has already made a significant impact on many communities living in poverty in the Central African Republic, and its work is only beginning. The organization’s effort to end water scarcity is a step toward ending the damaging and harmful effects of extreme poverty in this hard-hit region.