Only one in five people in Eritrea has close access to an improved water source, with others travelling many miles or relying on unsafe surface water sources such as rivers or open wells. This has profound health impacts with water and sanitation being the second biggest driver of death and disability in the country. Years of persistent drought conditions in the region has further restricted access to water resources, compounding the problem and putting strains on local communities.
At any one time, up to 40% of the hand pumps in Eritrea that draw water up from ground water aquifers are broken, often due to lack of regular maintenance and funding. Ground water that has been naturally purified as it percolates through pores in the rock can be a source of safe water and in many cases, communities relying on unsafe water will have a hand pump lying derelict nearby. Providing a guaranteed maintenance scheme whilst building the capacity of local communities to protect the water source, can ensure convenient access to safe water for whole communities which is vital to community health and well-being. CO2balance are partnering with Vita to certify their Eritrea projects under the Gold Standard.
The project repairs the critical water infrastructure within communities and ensures that the hand pumps provide clean, safe water. Community members assist technicians in the repair and maintenance of the hand pump, building capacity so they are aware of the mechanics and better able to preserve the pump lifetime. Specific training is also given to a Water Resource Committee who have responsibility for the management of the hand pump, including informing the team of the condition of the borehole on a regular basis, keeping the area clean and free from contamination; and for the wider context of sanitation and health, to improve community health and reduce the incidence of water-borne diseases.
Prior to the project, communities mostly boiled water as a means of purification; this used a lot of wood and the household air pollution from the smoke had serious health implications including lower respiratory infections. Providing a clean water source has eliminated the need to boil water, displacing the use of firewood and the subsequent smoke pollution; and thereby improving the health of those responsible for boiling water and their families.