More than 35 percent of the world’s population lacks access to improved sanitation. Worldwide, millions of people are infected with, or are dying from, water or hygiene-related diseases. The issue of water in Tanzania is critical, especially in relation to sanitation.
Currently, 85 percent of schools do not have hand washing facilities. Children attend school all day without being able to wash their hands, subjecting themselves and their communities to countless illnesses and infections. The need for hygiene education and sanitation facilities in schools is imperative. Hand soap is one of the simplest and most powerful ways to prevent disease; however, the inability to access soap and the limited availability of water in Tanzania makes this modest daily task a commodity. Water scarcity is closely related to sanitation and hygiene complications.
The Full Belly Project, based in Wilmington, North Carolina, developed a hand washing station that is made completely of recycled materials and uses 90 percent less water than other current hand washing systems. Ten of these life-saving systems were built and installed in and around Arusha, Tanzania in the spring of 2016.
This project received additional funding through a Clif Bar Family Foundation grant to build and install more systems in the summer of 2017. The project was executed with the goals of providing three months of soap for each installed station and providing education on the importance of hand washing, sanitation and the conservation of water in Tanzania.
The Full Belly Project’s hand washing station is built from recycled materials that are abundant in most regions. A large part of the Full Belly Project’s mission is to alleviate global poverty by providing tools to those in need, which in turn improves their lives and helps generate income. The organization encourages self-efficacy rather than providing handouts.
The hand washing system only requires an oil drum, half of a truck tire, soda bottles, bits of steel and a pail full of cement. Although the Full Belly Project and volunteers build the systems, the materials are found locally and the systems can be recreated by members of the community. “Our contact in Tanzania had already gathered all of the needed materials when our volunteers arrived,” said Amanda Coulter, Executive Director of the Full Belly Project, “The volunteers built five hand washing stations and taught community members so that they could create an additional five.”
The most significant feature of the hand washing system is its ability to conserve water. This is vital considering the scarcity of water in Tanzania, where most healthcare facilities and schools have no water source within 500 meters.
Soda bottles are filled with water from the nearest water source and by attaching bolts to the lids of the bottles, the openings use only 10 percent of the amount of water that other systems waste. In addition to conserving water, the system reduces the need to revisit the water source, which can be as far as 500 meters from the system.
The Full Belly Project has not only aided in addressing some of the most pressing health needs in Tanzania, it has given local civilians the knowledge and training required to recreate the hand washing stations. The life-saving ability of the Full Belly Project’s hand washing station showed its full potential with the recent widespread outbreaks of Cholera, a water and hygiene-related bacteria.
Full Belly Project volunteers were also able to bring eight rocker water pumps to Tanzania. The rocker water pump is an irrigation device that allows farmers to get more food from two acres of land and more income than ever before. The device draws water from 30 feet and can pump five gallons of water each minute. This kind of productivity is unprecedented because of the scarcity of water in Tanzania. “Our volunteers built them, packed them up as access carry-on luggage – that’s a funny story going through security,” Coulter laughed, “and they were able to deliver them to Massiah Women’s Groups and Orphanages in Tanzania that are pursuing agricultural programs.” The rocker water pumps are also made completely of recycled materials and can be recreated like so many of the Full Belly Project’s devices.
The Full Belly Project has made immense impacts worldwide; however, “our local impacts shouldn’t be forgotten,” Coulter said. “Volunteers come in and we are able to teach them about the problems other people face and how they can help; they get to make contributions and are really able to see their significance in the lives of others.” The Full Belly Project continues to provide help to those in need, through education and sustainable living programs, as seen through the hand washing system and rocker water pump installations in Tanzania.
– Jamie Enright