ChildFund International's Three Year Impact with PUR in Luwero, Uganda
Today I’m visiting the work of ChildFund International in Luwero, Uganda. We’ve been working with ChildFund for three years in this area and I last visited a little more than two years ago. There’s been almost a complete change in staff within ChildFund Uganda since my last visit so I’m getting to know new people. I’m traveling with the country representative, Simba Machingaidze.
Since I’ve watched “Lion King”, I know that Simba means “lion” in Swahili and make a joke about this. But, this “Simba” is from Zimbabwe and in his Bantu language “Simba” means “power.” Speaking of power, as we travel to Luwero, we learn that President Museveni of Uganda will be visiting Luwero this afternoon for a political rally so we’ll need to finish our business by then and head back to Kampala.
I had the pleasure of meeting Anne Goddard, the President and CEO, of ChildFund just a few weeks ago at a meeting on “Water and Health” at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. It turns out that both Anne and I graduated from Carolina at the same time. We discussed the project in Uganda and also the possibility of working together to provide clean drinking water to help severely malnourish children. I like what I’ve seen so far and I’m interested in expanding the work with them. ChildFund receives much of their funding from individuals who sponsor specific children. To create a lasting impact, they focus on comprehensive child development from pre-birth to adolescence.
The community of Luwero suffered from a long civil war and is still recovering. The focus of our work in this community is to help the most vulnerable by providing clean drinking water to households of people living with HIV/AIDS. PUR provides a unique advantage to people living with HIV/AIDS versus many other water purification technologies because it’s very effective in killing the bacteria and viruses while removing the chlorine resistant worms and parasites. We’ve provided two separate grants to ChildFund in order for them to provide about 8 million liters of clean drinking water to about 1,000 households.
While this is an area of high poverty and poor health indicators including childhood illness and death, it’s much more developed than some of the areas that we reach. Many of the people own livestock and grow coffee. In fact, its coffee harvesting season now and we see drying coffee beans in front of many of the homes.
PUR is being provided along with hygiene and sanitation training by a network of home-based care volunteers. I’m honored to meet with a gathering of these volunteers, many who have served their community since the start of our program. There are 54 of the volunteers each reaching about 20-25 households. About half of the volunteers are themselves HIV positive and have benefitted directly from having PUR.
We visit with several of the households receiving PUR and it’s clear that they are loyal, long-term users. Although they’re getting PUR for free in this program, they clearly value the donation. Anette Namugabe wears the traditional Ugandan dress and welcomes us into her home. Her husband died from HIV/AIDS and she’s been on antiretroviral drugs since 2008. When she was first diagnosed with the HIV virus she also had tuberculosis. She confides in me that the combinations of HIV, TB, and the loss of her husband were almost too much for her and she’s lucky to be alive today.
She takes us to the pond where she collects her water. It’s a small open spring and highly contaminated. She tells us that she used to try and boil her water before receiving PUR but it’s difficult to find sufficient firewood to boil and she cannot afford charcoal. She stirs PUR into a big pot that she also uses for cooking and watches the water clarify. She later transfers the water into a safe storage container to prevent recontamination of the water.
Anette tells us that one packet will last her family of 3 several days. Since she’s been using PUR, she now doesn’t trust other sources of water, even the expensive bottled water from the shops. She tells me that she takes PUR-water with her even when she travels.
The ChildFund staff tells me that Anette had almost given up hope following the death of her husband. It took a lot of counseling to help convince her that she could continue to live a positive life. PUR has been an important part of this because it eliminated the persistent diarrhea that was helping keep her bedridden. Now Anette is back on her feet and raising her two children.
Little Ishia and her brother drink several glasses when their parents serve the water. The ChildFund staff encourages the women to make sure the children have plenty to drink, particularly on these hot days.
We travel to another area to visit with more households. In this area there’s a borehole but the people know that it doesn’t provide safe drinking water because, as one father explains to me, his children stayed persistently sick before having PUR. He’s proud to show off his daughter and thankful to ChildFund and P&G for helping them.
I can’t resist this cute little girl and kneel to give her some water myself. As we prepare to leave and beat the rush of traffic from the President, I tell the home-based care volunteers and the ChildFund staff that I’m grateful for their work to help the people of Luwero.