Background: “Providing Clean Water and Employment Opportunities for 150 Women with HIV in Mwanza, Tanzania”.
Four years ago, Friendly Water for the World and our Tanzania affiliate Community Life Amelioration Organization (CLAO) started working with the Uzima Centre for People with HIV in Mwanza in northern Tanzania. Begun as a self-help support group in 1999. The Uzima Centre had grown to support of more than 300 families, and 75 orphans, all impacted by HIV. They provide safe-sex education and served as a locus for delivery of anti-retroviral drugs. But their situation was dire. Many people were too weak to work. People, and in particular, young children were dying of waterborne opportunistic infections. The anti-retroviral drugs were being taken with unclean water, radically reducing their effectiveness. In the first stage, Friendly Water contracted with another CLAO-trained group to supply BioSand Filters for 43 families. In virtually every case, health was regained. In collaboration with the Uzima Center, CLAO then trained members of these families to fabricate, distribute, and maintain BioSand Filters, and made it possible, over the next two years, for all the other families to purchase BioSand Water Filters for just the cost of materials. In addition, the newly established cooperative sold more than 1,100 Filters, bringing in more than $50,000. There now has not been a single AIDS-related death in almost four years. Clinic visits for water-related conditions have been reduced by 96%.
Based on this and other work, the Office of the President of Tanzania sent a letter to all provincial and municipal governments to provide assistance to CLAO and to Friendly Water in their missions. Two groups of people with HIV were chosen and provided with a nine-day training program on constructing rainwater catchment/ferro-cement tanks in order to mitigate the long walk to water. The local government provided funds for the first three catchments, which were attached to schools. Women are employed to clean the water and then sell it, at prices much lower than that paid for dirty water. Surplus profits are going into building more catchments. The two new catchment-building teams have now been employed to teach three other groups, two of whom made up of people with albinism, who are a very marginalized and oppressed community.
The reputation of the Uzima Center has now grown nationally as a result.
Three other women-with-HIV groups, with a total of 150 women, approached the Uzima Center and CLAO to request training in building BioSand Filters. Many of them are widows with children, whose husbands have died of AIDS or related opportunistic infections. They brought their medical records – all of them had been or were currently impacted by waterborne illnesses.
The plan is to train three groups of women – 8-10 per group – in fabricating, distributing, and maintaining BioSand Filters. Tools will be provided, and enough materials to build the first 20-25 Filters for sale, or for marketing/promotion purposes. In addition, enough materials will be provided so that each of the trained participants will be able to purchase a Filter for their families for just the cost of materials. In our experience, this results in the best form of word-of-mouth advertising. Trainers from CLAO will monitor the progress of the groups, and will undertake a second epidemiology survey three months after Filters are installed.