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How safe water and sanitation brought new life to Asaloko

Published on: 10/06/2020

Asaloko is a small community in the Bongo district where lives have been transformed through the introduction of safe water and effective sanitation. Householders no longer carry water long distances, children are better able to learn and the whole environment has been cleaned up.

Material prepared by a team from the Ghana National Development Planning Commission and IRC Ghana

Children at morning assembly at Asaloko School, Bongo District

Just 360 people live in this settlement of 24 wide spread compounds, where a primary school also meets the needs of 201 children from Asaloko and the neighbouring community of Amanga.

Asaloko was included as one of the WASH for Public Health (WASH4PH) project communities where WaterAid installed a solar powered mechanised water system piping water to the school and the community and helped local inhabitants to tackle pollution and hygiene issues through community-led total sanitation (CTLS).

The impact is visible. Three tall structures with overhead Polytanks supply clean, safe water. Almost every household compound has added a toilet and many also have made tippy-taps for hand-washing. It is one of a relatively few communities not disfigured by plastic bags drifting across the landscape. The water system serves Asaloko Primary School and the local community through three tap stands. To reduce cost, the solar powered system operates without batteries and pumps water during the day.

Water tank and taps at Asaloko SchoolWhen mechanic Atanga Adongo arrives first thing in the morning to open the pipeline, the system pumps water to the overhead tanks at about 100 litres per minute. The tanks supply enough storage for the community to be access water 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Jennifer Nyaaba (see picture below), advocacy team secretary for the community water and sanitation management team (WSMT), says the WASH4 Public Health project has also brought significant changes in sanitation. “Before 2016 you would come to the community and the whole place smelled. People thought that maybe in defecating in the open they were adding manure or something like that to their land – ignorantly.  But true awareness came to them."

She points out the tree where people used to go to defecate.  “If it happens that you are all ladies or men then you are able to manage but if it happens that it is a lady and man you don’t feel comfortable.  And if the pigs are around they are there crying to get you to get up faster so they can come and eat the faeces. Meanwhile we cook the meat of that pig and eat it. So we are causing harm to our bodies, our systems and a lot of diseases.” 

Jennifer Nyaaba, WSMT advocacy team secretary, uses a tippy tap outside her house to wash her hands

After a big community effort Asaloko was declared open defecation free in July 2019 and proudly maintains its status. “You can see around there is no rubbish – we don’t litter, we don’t defecate openly. If you go to a far place and you feel like defecating and don’t see a toilet, you will be in a hurry to get home.”

Margaret Awoo a teacher at Asaloko School is happy that Asaloko was one of the communities selected by WaterAid Ghana. “They came here to train us how to clean and how to end open defecation. So through that every household has to build a toilet.” The community selected leaders to check that everyone was following the new ways. “We have days that they go round to see – they enter the toilet and see whether it is clean. And we charge you. If we find your toilets unclean or your surroundings with rubbish you pay. And if we catch you defecating outside not in a toilet you pay. Because of that the community is clean."

Head teacher, George Apikia says that children at Asaloko Primary School are happier and more focused now there is water close by. In former times the children aged 4 to 13 would walk more than 25 minutes to fetch water and lessons would be delayed. Now they fill water bottles from the Polytank or use cups provided by the school and water outside the classroom. They also have a toilet onsite and wash their hands using a Veronica bucket and soap. The children put on WASH education performances at the school for parents and encourage them to make tippy-taps so they can wash their hands.

Jerry Nyaaba, secretary of the Asaloko WSMT, says the project has improved the children’s education.  “Any time they come to school in the morning there is enough water stored in the polytank for their usage and when they go to the toilet there is water for them to wash their hands. It has improved their health conditions and made life and learning easier for them." 

It is not only the children who appreciate the change. Rosa Nsobilia, pregnant with her second child, had been advised not to let her first child drink from the old borehole. “But this one, I think it is quality.  If you give the child this water I think the child will be healthier. I am happy, simply because there are some people in cities that don’t have quality water. We are in a village but we have quality water to drink."

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