In the survey of two hundred and thirty-five households near Ufani Primary School which Karimu commissioned early this year, Julian Page writes that diarrhea “is the second largest killer of children under 5 on a global basis” and that its causes include “dirty water .” The survey, carried out door-to-door by Joas Kahembe’s son Jason, reports that one in twelve of the children of these households die before reaching the age of five, more than ten times the mortality rate for children of that age group in the United States.
However, just as we expect the frequency of malaria among the villagers we work with to fall after Karimu’s provision of six hundred and forty bed nets this past August and September, illness linked to unclean water should also start to decline soon. In the last week Joas has e-mailed me his budget for building a clean water system for Ufani School and, to my relief, Karimu has more than enough money to pay for it. I can wire him the funds as soon as we clear up one crucial detail: we need to make sure to equip the five-thousand-liter holding tank with a level gauge so that the person charged with adding the disinfecting agent to the water knows how much to pour in. Joas tells me that Ufani’s nine teachers will take turns adding the disinfectant and our water specialist, Tiffany Wise-West, assures me they can easily do the necessary calculations with pencil and paper if the level gauge shows the volume of water left in the tank.
During our visit to Tanzania in August, Tiffany found great interest among the villagers in clean water, as well as curiosity about the relative contamination levels of their several different water sources. The water from the faucet already at Ufani School is the least contaminated because, unlike the water from the other sources, animals cannot walk in it. Tiffany has worried that the new clean water system at Ufani will increase dependence on the water there and lead to rapid draining of a tank of only five thousand liters. Joas and the Tanzanian contractor who will install the new system anticipated this possibility, though. According to Joas’ latest e-mail, they “thought of the anticipated future population at Ufani School”—growing steadily because of its excellence—and the site chosen for the tank “can accommodate more tanks on need.”
I suppose it will take a little while to build the system. In order to use gravity to maximize flow into the tank, the contractor and his men will tap a new source of water three hundred meters from Ufani’s just-renovated kindergarten building. They will lay pipe from the source above Ufani on the soaring, densely forested escarpment which meets level earth only a few yards behind the school, marking the eastern border of the Great Rift Valley that stretches south to Mozambique and north all the way to Syria. If, as the villagers claim, elephants live in the forest on that steep hillside, then they must be extremely fit elephants. But the men laying the pipe will also be fit—the capacity of the Tanzanians for hard physical labor astonishes me on every trip—so I know they will finish Ufani’s new water system as soon as possible.—Don Stoll