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Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Health and Nutrition: Burkina Faso

Water in Africa

Africa, Burkina Faso

by Jonathan Coleman, Pensa, Burkina Faso

Water pumped from the ground is fairly clean and free of rocks, dirt, mud, and mildew. But it's not free from microbes and viruses that are too small to be seen by the eye. This is why I filter and add bleach to my water. Using iodine tablets or boiling water are also good methods to ensure safety for cooking and drinking. Bathing water comes directly from the pump or barrage with no filtration treatment.

Many diseases can be carried in water, and one of them is Guinea worm. Burkina Faso is waging a national effort for the eradication of the Guinea worm. We're actually pretty lucky—a double layer of thin fabric is enough filter to stop Guinea worm from entering water stored in a bidon, cannarie, bareek, or other container. Each month, I go to the tiny satellite villages near Pensa to hand out filters and conduct hands-on training, demonstrating their use. One village, Yalgo, has almost 40 cases of Guinea worm, making it an endemic area. It is a tragedy because Guinea worm is very easy to prevent. But children and adults with Guinea worm have difficulty walking, working, and farming. They're also susceptible to tetanus and other infections and can easily infect other village water supplies. Guinea worm education in conjunction with water treatment training can be a very effective way to create a lasting, positive change in a village.

by Jenelle Norin, Safane, Burkina Faso

Safane's drinking water is relatively safe. Since it comes from wells—as opposed to a river—we don't wash clothes or bathe directly in it. This cuts down on contamination.

Most wells are not covered, however. Contamination may occur when objects fall into the wells. For example, dust, leaves, grass, small animals, large animals, and even people may fall in! Last year in Safane, a small girl fell in the well. Luckily, neighbors were able to pull her out. I also once heard a story that a baby elephant and a full-grown cow fell into the well, but I'm a little skeptical.

by Anne Hong, Bassan, Burkina Faso

The pump water nearest to my house is clear and tastes good. When I am at home, I run my drinking water through a filter and then treat it with chlorine.

I am less careful about water when I travel or visit the home of a neighbor. I don't want to offend my host by refusing the water offered to me.

The villagers cover containers and prevent animals from drinking from their household water supplies. But they do not filter the water before drinking it. This can lead to intestinal viruses, which can sometimes prove fatal.

by Shana Miller, Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina Faso

The drinking water in Bobo Dioulasso is generally clean. Families here have access to clean water through an indoor or outdoor tap.

by Bruce Karhoff, Loumbri, Burkina Faso

My drinking water is fresh because it comes from a pump. As more funds become available, more pumps are installed. But most people here still use open wells, where dirt can enter and, with it, disease.

by Amy Toellner, Yako, Burkina Faso

I use a filter to keep my water fresh, but I'm not sure if it's necessary. It doesn't seem to get dirty. Very few families filter or chlorinate their drinking water.

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