CONAKRY, Guinea (May 7, 2012) — The plains of Boffa are a sea of green—and yet there is no drinkable water here.
It is typical of the area, which extends along the country’s coastline. Its geography prohibits use of the industrial drilling machines that are used in other regions to access drinking water. But creating a ready supply of safe, clean water is critical; the area has been afflicted by cholera epidemics due to poor water quality.
UNICEF and Guinea’s national water service, Service National d'Aménagement des Points d'Eau, are working together to capture shallow groundwater using a simple technology: manual drilling.
In late 2010 and early 2011, during the first stage of the project, nine manual drilling stations were built in Tougnifily, a rural sub-prefecture in the Boffa prefecture. These served more than 8,000 women and children.
Another drilling station was built at Sonfonia Health Center, in the crowded municipality of Ratoma, in Conakry, two hours from Tougnifily.
Before these pumps were installed, the only water sources in the area were seasonal rainfall, traditional wells, and developed wells—water holes dug by local communities—which were used by both humans and animals. The storage conditions for the rainwater were inadequate—usually just uncovered buckets—and this water would often be stored for months, making it unsafe and contributing to the spread of diarrheal diseases in children.
Kadiatou Aboubacar Camara has been the president of a manual drilling station in Tombaya, a district in Tougnifily, for two months. A teacher by profession, she was elected by the village community to maintain the pump.
“I oversee the maintenance and repair of the manual pump that was installed not long ago with the support of UNICEF,” she said. The absence of clean water caused us a lot of suffering [in the past]. It took about one hour to travel 2 miles to the school to get clean water.”
Aminata Bangoura, a housewife living in the village of Monchon, also in Tougnifily, echoes Camara’s sentiments. For a time, she was forced to use a makeshift well in a grassy area near her house. The water was brackish and, unsurprisingly, children and adults who drank the water suffered frequent bouts of diarrhea and cholera.
“Three years ago, I lost my school-aged son as a result of cholera,” she said. The new pump in her village will hopefully save others from the same fate.
Still, more pumps are needed.
“I really hope that we will increase the number of manual drilling stations because there are still too few compared to the size of the population,” Bangoura said. “During the next dry season… we might see a rush of people at the few manual pumps that are available.”
The manual drilling station at Tombaya elementary school has become a busy gathering place. To maintain normal operation of the school, the village now regulates the hours that people can use the pump.
There is also a drawing fee: a 5-gallon bucket of water costs 100 francs. The funds are used to maintain the pump. Two repairmen have also been trained to make repairs as necessary.
UNICEF is currently mobilizing resources to install additional water pumps in the area.