In rural Tanzania, water contamination plagues many communities. Unclean water sources are the primary cause of countless preventable diseases such as cholera, typhoid, intestinal worms, amoebas, schistosomiasis, chronic diarrhea, and malaria. It is estimated that throughout Africa, 115 people die every hour from diseases linked to improper hygiene, poor sanitation, and contaminated water. This is why Maji Safi Group is committed to educating Tanzanians about these issues and how to prevent them.
Some of the main sources of water contamination in Tanzania’s rural communities are: open defecation, sewage, bathing at water sources, doing laundry and washing dishes at water sources, agricultural runoff, factory pollution, household waste pollution, fishing industry pollution, and general waste from businesses.
To identify and prevent water contamination, each source must be examined for its accessibility and quality. These are questions often used to identify water contamination at a source:
- Is it an unprotected source, such as an open well, ditch, or pond?
- Do people wade, wash clothes, or bathe near the collection point?
- Are pit toilets or sewage close to the water source?
- Is there garbage in or very close to the water source?
- Are there snails in the water or living on the bank?
- Does algae grow on the surface?
Contamination can occur upstream and cause disease downstream. In other words, if a village upstream has unsanitary practices, it will affect villages downstream. Thus, if unsanitary conditions are found, the implications downstream must be taken into consideration.
DISEASES CAUSED BY CONTAMINATED WATER
Many preventable diseases caused by unsanitary water sources are damaging the livelihoods of Tanzanians. Here are a few:
Schistosomiasis is a parasitic disease passed through snails. It is often a chronic illness that can damage internal organs and impair growth and cognitive development in children. Symptoms can often go undetected for years. Schistosomiasis can be eliminated by getting rid of the water-dwelling snails – thus the importance of examining sources for the presence of such snails.
Cholera is a highly contagious disease that left untreated can cause death in mere hours. It is caused by the ingestion of bacteria from water or food sources. After ingestion, it causes severe diarrhea. Prevention of cholera lies in improved sanitation practices and water sources.
Typhoid is a bacterial infection that leads to high fevers, diarrhea, and vomiting. It is caused by the bacteria Salmonella typhi. It often occurs in places where hand washing is neglected, and it is passed through contaminated drinking water or food.
These are just a few of the preventable diseases caused by contaminated water in Tanzania. Most of these diseases are completely preventable and treatable if there is an increased focus on water, sanitation and improved hygiene practices.
SOLUTIONS FOR CLEAN WATER
One affordable solution to providing villages with clean water is rainwater harvesting. Rainwater is some of the cleanest, naturally occurring water available because of a natural distillation process. Rainwater is often collected from roofs and occasionally from ground or rock catchments.
The only disadvantage to using rainwater is possible contamination from animals, insects, or algae growth in or on catchment surfaces. These surfaces can act as a breeding ground for disease if they are not properly maintained.
“Maji Safi” means “clean water” in Swahili. Our mission from the start has been to bring clean, protected water sources to rural Tanzanians. We know that when the proper steps are taken, people are educated, and systematic changes are made, lives will be saved, diseases will be prevented, and opportunities for Tanzanians will abound. Do your part and help prevent water contamination in Tanzania!