Sisters Provide Clean Water Solutions in Congo

Sisters Provide Clean Water Solutions in Congo

During the 2018 Lenten season, we’ll share the work of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur from around the world. We hope you in turn will share their work with your family and friends or via Facebook or Twitter.  

March 22nd is World Water Day.

Designated by the United Nations, it highlights the importance of water for everyone around our world.

The theme for World Water Day 2018 is Nature for Water – exploring nature-based solutions to water challenges. 

For those living in extreme poverty, including the students and families our Sisters serve in Africa, every day is a struggle for clean water. The focus of this week’s Lenten Snapshot is on our Sisters in the Democratic Republic of Congo and how they provide clean water to those they serve.

Did you know…

  • 2.1 billion people live without safe drinking water affecting their health, education and livelihoods?
  • Approximately 1.9 billion people live in water-scarce areas?
  • An estimated 1.8 billion people use an unimproved source of drinking water with no protection against contamination from human feces?
  • Globally, over 80% of wastewater flows back into the environment without being treated or reused?

In Congo, the average salary is $400 per year, so things as simple as soap are considered luxuries.

There are over 200 local languages and dialects spoken throughout Congo but the official language is French. If a child does not attend school, they do not learn French. This acts as a significant barrier for them to sell goods, barter at the market or fully participate in life outside their small village. 

All children in Congo — even those as young as three or four — participate in the never-ending challenge of procuring clean water. Often walking long distances with buckets of water, if a child does not work, that child does not eat. It’s as stark and as dire as that. The first five years of life are perilous for any impoverished child, but they are especially so for poverty-stricken Congolese children. Caption: Young children bring water back to their village everyday.

At the Notre Dame Primary and Secondary Schools in Mpese, boys go to the river every day for water. Girls draw their water from inside the school compound.

Is this water safe? The answer is NO! Every day, water needs to be collected, then boiled, filtered and stored. This routine is part of daily life everywhere in Congo.

Nselo is a remote village 40 miles from Kinshasa, the capital city. Residents in Nselo mostly live on subsistence farming. Most people do not have access to electricity or clean water which means one out of three children die before they have reached five years of age. In Nselo, the Sisters run an adult learning center for young women. Today, there are four Sisters living in Nselo with four teachers and about 40 young women attending classes. There is a local University and a hospital near the village. Caption: A mother and her young children tend their vegetable garden.

The Sisters in Nselo collect rainwater in a large cistern and then boil the water before using it. The rainwater runs off the roof of the building into a gutter, which directs it into the cistern. The compound where the adult learning center sits lacks any indoor plumbing and electricity. Each student is assigned one big blue bucket for collecting her fresh water supply. Caption: At the Nselo adult learning center, each student has a blue bucket for water.

There is an additional water source outside the village. It is a natural spring that provides water to the entire village. But access is down a very steep bank; a full bucket of dirty water is then carried back up before the long walk back to the village. This dirty water is the only available source for all water uses in the village.

Is there a better way to provide clean and safe water for the people of Mpese and Nselo? The long-term answer is the Photovoltaic Project, which would bring electricity and clean water to these areas. The short-term response is found in the small blue and white water purification packets, which the Sisters distribute.

We are most grateful for your support during the Lenten season, in helping our Sisters in Africa minister to the most vulnerable and educate for life through safe and clean water programs.