“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”
Water4 is no stranger to crisis. We have seen how God uses hardship to change things for good, bringing fruitfulness out of despair, and producing long-term growth out of temporary pain. So when a challenge seems insurmountable, we gear up for action.
During the Ebola outbreak of 2014, which killed 11,000 people across West Africa, Water4Ever (Water4’s partner in Sierra Leone) did what they always do– they adapted to their environment on behalf of those they serve. Operating a piped water system supporting thousands, drilling wells in self-quarantined encampments, and living away from their homes for months, Water4Ever kept serving when others had to shut down and leave. Their drill teams became “family units,” setting up tents near drilling sites and roping off the perimeter to isolate the group as they worked to bring essential services. One person had the job of bringing drillers’ salaries to their families to ensure social distancing measures remained in place for the long haul.
Water4Ever’s commitment to being part of the solution, and their support to local government, which was itself in coordination with the national government, were the essential features of the company’s successful response. Water4Ever did what they could, where they were, with what they had. And Water4 was able to bolster that support to help stem the Ebola pandemic as it raged across the region.
This experience has shaped the way Water4 works in a crisis. Thanks to our team of field and tactical experts, we are far from weekend warriors. We are flexible, shifting focus to respond quickly to immediate needs as they shift and persist. For example, in Malawi, the managing director of our local enterprise partner has written COVID hygiene jingles for radio stations and produced hand washing videos for dissemination on news outlets. These rapid responses are a natural extension of the WaSH services our partners provide every day in the communities they serve.
Here are three more ways in which our Water4 partners are going beyond the call of duty.
- In Kenya, cutting down COVID-19 transmission via travel has been a government priority. Water4’s partner answered the call to procure and install washing stations at critical transport points. In bus stations, one bucket with soap can serve up to 500 passengers per day. In villages, three hand washing stations were distributed in areas frequented by nomadic Maasai tribes, providing these groups with information about COVID-19 and how to remain safe.
The World Health Organization’s Kenya office cited Water4 hand washing stations as an inclusive pandemic response. Ensuring travelers have access to safe water greatly reduces the risk of transmission between villages and towns as people move around.
- In Ghana, Water4 was recently awarded a grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation to scale up support to the local government’s COVID-19 response plan. The District Assembly has asked Access Development, Water4’s local partner, for support with improving the availability of safe water services in healthcare facilities (HCFs). For the first time, 16 HCFs will receive piped water into multiple treatment rooms and 26 HCFs in the district will receive training, procedures and systems to strengthen their capacity for infection prevention and control. Water4 is grateful for the opportunity to coordinate this partnership and to offer one of the first sustainable water supply solutions for rural clinics in Africa.
- Back in Sierra Leone, where lessons from Ebola are reflected in Water4Ever’s response to COVID-19, WaSH once again has taken on a new meaning. Water4Ever responded to a request from the District’s Social Development Office for three handwashing stations for public markets. They also provided access at police stations, where officials were eager to ensure the safety of essential services, while also setting a good example for community members.
Water4’s model shows that by supporting sustainable local businesses that are embedded in local communities, global trials can lead to local transformation. Local entrepreneurs, across the Water4 network, are not just combating COVID-19, they are investing in flourishing communities simply by doing good where they are, and making opportunities out of the confines of a crisis.