Water: The most important resource

Do you know that feeling? Finding it hard to get up in the morning despite the luxury of being able to take a warm shower, go to the toilet, brush our teeth and brew up some coffee. For all of this we need water. And for us, it’s quite simple: just turn on the tap and watch the water flow out. Our only problem is getting out of bed in the first place. Elsewhere in the world, they have much bigger challenges – it’s the availability of precious water that’s the problem…

Wash project

What is WaSH?

In 2015, 193 countries adopted 17 sustainable development goals. These are the United Nations Sustainable Goals (SDGs). SDG 6 was created to ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

At Jambo Bukoba, we pursue this goal through our WaSH projects. WaSH stands for water, sanitation and hygiene. Our initiatives include:

  • hygiene workshops for teachers and children
  • the construction of rainwater tanks and hand washing facilities for students and other school attendees.

The story behind our WaSH projects in Tanzania

Wash Project children wash hands

A few years ago, Gonzaga from our Jambo For Development team in Tanzania was observing students during a break:

“I saw a child who had just come from the toilet and had not washed his hands. Obviously, he had brought some food from home that day and was now happily sharing it with his friends. The immediate thought that came to my mind was: this is a feast of joy for all the bacteria.

Gonzaga couldn’t get this scene out of his head. What if the children were passing on diseases in this way and infecting each other? What could Jambo Bukoba do to help?

The facts behind our WaSH projects

children go fetch water at the school

In Tanzania, 47 percent of the population still has no access to drinking water. 89 percent of Tanzanians have to fetch their water from public water points and walk kilometres to get it. In short, only 11 percent of the population has access to running water.

Many children – primarily girls – have to make the long journey to get clean water for their families before going to school. As a result, they often miss valuable lessons.

The hygiene situation at the schools is no better: 38 percent of schools have no water supply at all and 84 percent have no hand-washing facilities. As a result, diseases like diarrhoea and cholera spread easily among students – causing children to be ill and miss school.

According to UNICEF, 47% of all these hygiene-related diseases and the resulting days of absence could be prevented – and that’s with regular handwashing with soap.

How is a water tank built?

water tank

A water tank can hold an average of 50,000 liters.

However, washing hands does not work if there is no water. In some cases, more than 1.000 children are taught at the schools – no one can carry that much water.

That’s why tanks are needed to store the water on site at the schools. These are built from cement, sand, stones and metal. They vary in size and hold between 22,000 and 72,000 litres. The average is 50,000 litres.

The community is always involved as our partner in projects. As co-owners, they usually contribute to the construction of the sanitation facilities at the schools. In this way, communities, parents and other adults share the responsibility for the success of the initiatives, while gaining an understanding of the importance and proper use of these facilities.

How does the water get into the tank?

When it rains, the water collects on the school roofs and flows from there through the gutters into the water tank.


The water flows into the tank via the rain gutters.

After the construction of our first water tanks in 2016/2017, members of our team in Tanzania observed that the children, as well as using the water to wash their hands, were also drinking it. Water from rain water tanks is not clean enough to drink. To make it safe for consumption, special filter systems are needed, which are not built into the tanks…

How does rainwater become drinking water?

The rainwater collected in the water tanks contains minute microorganisms, bacteria and viruses that can cause diseases such as diarrhoea, stomach cramps and fever. Eventually, these gastrointestinal illnesses can lead to malnutrition, severe dehydration, and sick children having to miss school.

Paul Filter
Paul Filter

The PAUL membrane filter can filter out particles as small as 0.04 microns.

The PAUL water filter uses a membrane through which the water must pass to filter out microorganisms, bacteria and even some viruses. Since viruses can be very small and they are the real challenge. Rotavirus, for example, gets caught in the membrane, while hepatitis A is so small, it can’t be filtered out.

With PAUL, around 1,200 litres can be turned into clean water every day. The filter is connected between a rainwater catchment tank located at a higher level and a drinking water tank located lower down, so that the water has to flow through it.
UV purifier

Another way to turn rainwater into drinking water is through UV rays – or rather UV-C rays – which are also used for disinfection in laboratories and businesses.

UV light reduces microorganisms, bacteria and viruses. How effectively depends on the exposure time of the light to the water, the turbidity of the water and the light intensity. The water flows through a tube or container where it is irradiated with this special light.

This light emits a wavelength of about 200 – 300 nanometres and attacks the DNA of the pathogens. In contrast to filtration, pathogen size does not play such a large role here. The UV light is most effective combating bacteria, followed by microorganisms and viruses.

Powered by solar cells, the UV water purifier can purify 2,500 litres of water per hour.

The hygiene education games of WaSH United

But that’s not all: water tanks and water filters are not enough. Education is also necessary as anyone who doesn’t know how important it is to wash their hands after going to the toilet won’t use the handwashing facilities.

To achieve this, a sustainable change in behaviour must be brought about. That’s why hygiene workshops for students and teachers are vital. The teachers in particular are very important here – as multipliers – one of them alone reaches several hundred children.

We take the workshop concepts from WaSH United as our guideline. These are designed to have a lasting effect. Hygiene lessons are taught in a playful way so that the children can better remember what they have learned.

knock down the germs

The game “Knock down the germs“, for example, is based on “throwing cans”. For this, the children are divided into teams. Then the cans, labelled with a disease like cholera or typhoid, are stacked on top of each other. Whoever knocks down the most cans wins.

Our vision for clean water and sanitation

Kinder holen vor der Schule Wasser

Our goal: Never have to fetch water again!

One of our goals with WaSH projects is to provide children with access to clean water and drinking water and hygiene and sanitation skills.

This helps to counteract diseases, by improving the hygiene situation at elementary schools. It enables girls to spend more time at school and thus improves children’s educational opportunities and their chances of having a stronger, better future.

Our vision for the year 2023: clean water for 50,000 children!

If you would like to help us reach our goal, please support us with a donation!

Learn more about our WaSH projects on our website.

Written by Steffi Eisenlauer