by Britt Lipson
March 22nd, 2018 was World Water Day, but not everyone observed it. Among those who didn’t celebrate were the people of Cameroon who are suffering from frequent water cuts which means the water is turned off and stops running. As a result, water is not easily accessible.
Schools in Cameroon are particularly affected by the water shortage. When this occurs, the government shuts off the water so they can’t access it easily. They must trek far and carry gallons of water. Buea School for the Deaf is just one example. Located near the mountains of southern Cameroon, the school operates from Monday to Friday, but some students remain over the weekend if their commute is too far. The school is nestled amid beautiful mountains and trees. It almost seems an ironic background for such a serious crisis. For those who have to stay for the weekends, it is hard to leave the school in search of water as the school is located a few miles up a mountain. There is occasionally running water however the government shuts it off often to conserve it. When this occurs is not predictable to them. Also, some students are as young as 5 years old and not strong enough to carry water. They have 1 employee who remains with the students on the weekends to watch over them. This affects the students because they require water to cook. Without the ability to cook, they struggle to eat. Cameroon plans to solve the crisis by tapping into the largest river, the Sanaga, This is especially helpful for those who remain in the dorms on the weekends because they cannot go home to eat with the family. They completely rely on the school’s supply of water and food which is often limited.
Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon, has a population of over three million. Residents need a daily supply of about 300,000 cubic meters of pipe-borne water, but just 35 percent of it is supplied by the city. People have resorted to unsafe sources to get the precious liquid. Some must rely on rainfall. Most cannot afford the cost of a water bottle which is normally 5 cents for 1.5 liters.
Cameroon has plans to help solve the crisis by tapping into the largest river, the Sanaga, which is 600 kilometers in length. It will increase the water supply. This would help thousands of people access more water in the capital of Yaounde. Unfortunately, that is one solution and it is not enough. This water shortage needs to be brought to everyone’s attention.
Having the opportunity to teach in Cameroon for one year, I witnessed the water crisis firsthand. I experienced the struggle of finding enough clean water to meet my needs. Children are particularly susceptible to water-borne diseases like cholera, which causes diarrhea that can result in life-threatening dehydration. They are particularly sensitive because they have young immune systems, which aren’t yet developed.
With access to clean water, the risk of illness and death drops dramatically. Some 768 million people still do not have access to an improved source of drinking water; 40% of them live in sub-Saharan Africa. There is still a long way to go, but progress is being made. If 100% of people had access to clean water, the number of water-borne diseases and deaths would be close to zero. Clean water is critical to human health. By 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity1. That’s why creating water infrastructures and drilling wells is so important. Everyone deserves access to clean water.