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close this bookFood, Water and Family Health: A Manual for Community Educators (UNDP - WHO, 1994, 108 p.)
close this folderUnit 1: Healthy water and better sanitation
View the documentThe problems we have with water
View the documentWays to keep our water supply safe
View the documentGolden rules for safe water
View the documentImproving our environment ourselves
View the documentThe water committee
View the documentWays to make drinking water safer
View the documentLatrines

Improving our environment ourselves

We now have real support in the community for clean water. Many groups are involved. Students and teachers, women’s clubs, cooperatives, health workers, religious leaders, a development organization (sometimes called an “NGO”), and even artists and entertainers support the Golden Rules.

In the beginning it was difficult for people to see how much we all depend on one another for better health.

Some, who could afford clean water and latrines for themselves, showed little interest. Others said they were too poor to get involved.

Now we have a large map showing our water and problems. We have drawings of tubewell sites. People often study the pictures on the map and discuss them.


The water user’s group

Our new water user’s group is eligible for tubewell supplies and help in building latrines. The group set up a bank account and then collected money to pay for local contractors and materials.

We had meetings about sites for new wells, and we talked about how many families should use each well. We learned about several different schemes for paying for wells and latrines, and we hired well attendants.

We organized a meeting. The health worker brought a film and we helped to attract a large crowd. The film showed how the members of a family became ill when they drank dirty water:

A young man became ill because someone defecated up-stream from where he drank water. He became ill but did not use soap or clean ash to wash his hands.

He took water from an open jar with a cup and his hands entered his family’s drinking water.

Soon his children and wife became ill from drinking that water. They defecated in nearby bushes.

Flies carried the faeces to uncovered food at a nearby home.

Later other members of the family became ill and passed their illness on to their neighbours.

Later we saw how the community really changed. People organized to build tubewells or stand-pipes near their homes.

They learned how to repair them and make good use of the water. The water running off the wells didn’t collect in puddles, instead it flowed into nearby gardens.

Local women, not too different from ourselves, were shown fixing the tubewell. One of the women explained that in the past, broken wells were a big problem. Now tubewells are designed so that local women as well as men can repair and maintain them.

People also dug latrines and bought slabs for them. They built the latrines away from water sources at a safe distance from their homes. They cleaned the latrines and always washed their hands with water and soap or ash after using them.

Some people built ‘VIP latrines”- latrines with ventpipes to remove bad odours and trap flies.

Others who couldn’t build ventilated latrines used wooden covers to keep flies out of the latrine holes.

After seeing the film, a group of actors and singers created their own plays and songs about safe drinking water and disposal of faeces.


Could your community organize a meeting like this?

If you don’t have a film, could local artists write and perform a play?

Take a message and use it to make up a song in folk or popular styles.

Ask local artists and students to design posters to explain any of the Golden Rules.


Think of ways people can work together to help pay the cost of latrines and tubewells.

What is the cost of not using latrines or clean water from wells or standpipes?

Who is or should be on your local water committee?

Discuss your reasons for choosing these people.