For the children of the central African city of Luputa and nearby villages, an 18-mile-long pipe being laid near their homes means a lot more than access to clean water for their families.
It also means that they will be healthier and able to attend school more regularly, according to Marie Christensen, an Idaho woman who recently returned with her husband from D.R. Congo after 18 months of volunteer humanitarian service.
“With the convenience of having clean water close by, it will enable children to spend more time in school rather than having to take long walks to faraway water sources,” Christensen says. “Clean water will also minimize the spread of disease.”
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is partnering with French nonprofit organization Action for Development of Infrastructure in Middle Rural in an effort to provide clean water to these Congolese communities. Because of the distance the water will be carried, it has been named the largest water project the Church has assisted with.
Christensen says the idea of creating a gravity-fed water source that would store clean water in a tank turned into a reality when the right finances, supplies and approval came in early 2008. Leading from the storage tank, a main pipe with several distribution lines will provide water to an estimated 160,000 people.
“Water is life,” says Christensen. “This clean water will mean less sickness and prevent many deaths. I cannot fully express how excited the people are about this.”
Currently, people collect spring water that trickles from pipes sticking out of the ground. Water is gathered in areas that get contaminated easily. Women and children take plastic containers to the nearest water supply to retrieve water for household uses. With the steep hills and bumpy terrain, getting to the water is not even half the battle. Residents transport the water back to their home by balancing around 25 liters of water on their head.
Hundreds of local volunteers are contributing to the project by digging trenches for the pipes as well as providing labor for other tasks.
According to the World Health Organization, more than one billion people lack access to clean water. This water project should take around three years to complete.