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God Has Visited Us
Florence Ntakarutimana

In addition to its history of conflicts, Burundi faces a set of serious socio-economic and health challenges. Poverty and poor quality of life in Burundi are due to a range of factors including malnutrition, poor sanitation, and lack of clean drinking water. A big number of people drink water from rivers or wells. Water borne diseases such as diarrhea, typhoid, and cholera are some of the main challenges facing Burundi, particularly in rural areas where the access to a medical treatment is also very precarious.

Here we are in Felix’s home, a two room mud house, with nothing to sit on, except a mat, on which he and his wife and his six children sit. For the one hour I stayed inside with Felix’s family, three ladies and one child came in to filter water. And when it was time for me to leave, I was struck to see that five more five- gallon containers were put in a queue in front of Felix’s house. To this simple question, “What do you think of this filter?” one lady, without a second replied “Mother, all we can say about that, God has visited us.” Frankly, this is more than an appreciation! In fact, this part of the village has no clean running water.

Instead, they use river running water. It is actually a rice field for the sake of irrigation, the organization in charge of growing rice in that area managed to channel river water up to that locality. In a dry place like theirs, having such streams constituted a vital alternative in water supply especially when the heavens have not been kind to let the rains drop down. Thus, those folks cook and wash with water fetched from those streams. More, they bath and wash clothes in the stream as if the stream water was not dirty enough by itself. I later on learned that same water is taken as drinking water for most of the families. A pity!!
Felix and his wife recognize the tremendous help they have gotten from using the water filter. They testify the change that happened in their family since they got the filter.

As you know, we used to drink stream water channeled from Mpanda River to irrigate the rice fields. In order to get water from taps, we have to walk four kilometers and have to pay 200 francs (15 US cents) per a 20 liter jar. You can’t imagine how awful the taste, odor and color of the water from the stream. Now I enjoy clean water with my family. I am honored to be part of this group. I appreciate to see so many people coming in my house to ask for filtered water. I think, Florence, you remember how my children were the day you came to install the filter. They had ballooned bellies. Now look how healthy they are. Let me say simply and humbly that HROC is God’s angel sent to save our community.

Supported by Friendly Water for the World (FWFW) and Quaker Peace and Social Witness (QPSW), HROC Burundi has been launching the cleaning water initiative through Bi-sand water filters techniques. Three groups (Mutaho, Maramvya and Rukaramu) are already at work. More advanced, the Mutaho one is turning to become a cooperative. With the progress, Mutaho cooperative has now three part-time staff and twenty-nine trained people. Those trained folks, together with the three part-time staff, come for one day a week, as a community group, to build the filters. This year they have to make and distribute one hundred filters to families who have or will pay for them. Twenty-seven filters have been delivered and installed already. Maramvya and Rukaramu (Felix’s neighborhood) are still at their beginning. The two have to build twenty-five filters each this year.

Clean water needs are huge in Burundi. Along with the government effort in water adduction, we as civil society have to be creative in finding other cheap ways in providing clean water to people and communities. With each one’s action, we can offer Felix’s neighbors a filter. And as we have so many Felixes’, may this call go as far as possible and hands be put together so that those in need of clean water can be assisted.