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Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Health and Nutrition: Guinea

Water for Africa

Africa, Guinea

by Jesse Thyne, Mamou, Guinea Conakry, Guinea

The water that I drink is not fresh, but it is clean. I get my water from a well outside my house. Well water, though cleaner and safer than open lake or river water, is subject to many of the water diseases that plague Africa, like blood flukes, river blindness, amoebic dysentery, schistosomiasis, etc. After I draw my water, I let the dirt sink to the bottom of the bucket. Next I filter the cleaner part of the water, then I bleach the filtered water. This system assures that my drinking water tastes faintly of bleach and is far from "fresh"—but is completely free of disease.

Unfortunately for most of my community, their water is fresh, but not clean. Filters cost money, bleach costs money, boiling water requires fire wood, and without outside help, wells are difficult to dig. In some villages, or some parts of some villages, outsiders have installed water pumps that draw water from very deep in the Earth where the water is cleanest. This water does not need as much treatment, but even a pump can provide dirty water. For most people, however, water comes straight from the rivers, creeks, or even puddles nearest the village. These sources are created generally by rain and have collected in their beds all the wastes and fecal matter from the animals and especially humans living in the area. Although drinking water from open water sources is clearly a serious health risk, most people have no options.

by Jennifer Akers, Boké, Guinea

The drinking water (that is, pump water) is not fresh, despite the fact that it is treated with chemicals. Most Guineans in Boké recognize the need for clean drinking water and, therefore, drink only pump water and leave well and river water for cleaning and bathing. However, this is not always an option. In the situation where pump water is unavailable, many will drink water from less clean sources without treating it or filtering it first.

Although the water is contaminated in many ways that I am doubtless unaware of, there are a few that are evident to me every day. First of all, while there are latrines throughout Boké, many people do not rely on them to go to the restroom. Thus, urine and feces contaminate all water sources here. Also, clothes are washed directly in the river, again contaminating the principal water source. This has an impact on community health issues. Many Guineans suffer from stomach pains and diarrhea due to unclean drinking water. These problems range from minor to quite serious.

by Shad Engkilterra, Banko, Guinea

The drinking water in Guinea is likely to be contaminated with any number of parasites—the most common among Peace Corps Volunteers are giardia and amoebas. I have had protozoa, and there have been cases of schistosomiasis. Conakry, the capital, has had two outbreaks of cholera in the last year.

These diseases are mostly gastrointestinal and can cause diarrhea. This is the leading cause of death among children in the region. Stagnant water is the breeding ground for mosquitoes, which transmit malaria, another killer of many people. The black biting flies that transmit onchocerosis—a leading cause of blindness—live around rivers.

There are no programs in place to ensure clean drinking water in my village. Families drink pump water when it is available.

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