Getting Water to Women: AMREF’s Mkuranga District WASH Project, Tanzania

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By: Koronel Mashalla Kema, Program Manager and Technical WASH leader, AMREF Tanzania. Based in Dar es Salaam, he is also a Paul Harris Fellow with Rotary International.

As an engineer with a public health focus working with the African Medical & Research Foundation (AMREF), I am interested in addressing challenges faced by communities in need, especially women and children.

I joined AMREF in April 2003 as Project Manager for the Mkuranga water, hygiene, and sanitation (WASH) project. In 2006, I became the Program Manager and WASH Technical Lead, with responsibility for overall leadership, management, policy and technical guidance. My vision is to realize equitable and sustainable development achieved by empowering individuals and families to make changes in their lives supported by responsive health systems.

For example, AMREF helped construct a shallow well in their area so the women of Mkuranga no longer have to share their water with pigs and baboons. “We are very happy,” says Amina, a local resident.  “Now we have a clean supply of water throughout the year, and we don’t have to worry about the animals. The well is covered, so they can’t dirty the water, and there is enough for everyone.”

Under the five-year Mkuranga District WASH Program, AMREF constructed 117 shallow wells and 21 boreholes, increasing access to clean and safe water to 85 percent in the project areas. AMREF provided the equipment, materials and technical expertise to construct the wells, while the communities provided the labor.

Besides making the search for water easier and safer, the construction of the wells also reduced the time women use in looking for water, leaving them free to engage in economic activities and take better care of their children. Enrollment in primary schools has gone up too as children now have time to attend their lessons. The availability of clean water (voluntary community workers emphasize that the water must be boiled, even if it is from a well) has also led to a dramatic decrease in water-borne diseases such as diarrhea, typhoid and intestinal worms.

Following the success of AMREF Tanzania’s Mkuranga WASH project, best practices were applied to the expansion of that program to Serengeti, Mtwara, Musoma and Makete rural districts.  To achieve the desired results and outcomes, AMREF works closely with the government of Tanzania, alongside the targeted communities and their respective leadership.

Our future focus is on the integration of WASH with other cross cutting sectors, so as to holistically address the needs of women and children in African communities.

This blog post is part of the Wash and Women’s Health series hosted by the MHTF and coordinated by WASH Advocates.