Enjoying a shower for the first time

Veronica, with her baby seeing water coming out of the tap for the first timeLast year (2015), Veronica Nhamassa, 25, had running water in her home for the first time in her life. She lives with her husband and 19-month-old daughter Eulisia in a one-bedroom home in the peri-urban area of Jangamo, in the arid southern province of Inhambane. Nhamassa proudly demonstrates how water flows from the taps of her new sink and her newly fitted shower in a small outside enclosure which she had built last year. She carefully collects the water in a beaker so as not to waste it. “Before, I had to fetch water in a bucket from my brother-in-law’s house and I took my bath using a bucket. I enjoy the shower so much. It’s much easier than taking a bath with a bucket and it saves time and water. It is also very cheap, much cheaper than the private water supplier.” She then shows off her new toilet. “This too is much better than the latrine I had outside.”

water sanitation hygiene mozambique
EXARQUE MAMBO, 13, a child radio producer in Inhambane, reflects how difficult it must be not to have water at home.
"My friend, Carlos, has to search for water before he goes to school because he has no running water in his home. He is suffering a lot; sometimes he is late for school because he is looking for water" — Exarque, 13.

Nhamassa’s family, who live in a small town in Inhambane province, have benefited from a government programme, implemented in partnership with UNICEF and the EU, to install piped water supply at household level. This means that they have running water either inside the home or from a tap in their yard at affordable prices.

“Although water and sanitation coverage is better in urban than rural areas, access to water in small towns is actually lower than both,” explains Chris Cormency, UNICEF Chief of Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH). Moreover, “having access to WASH services is critical to extend social services and development in these fast growing populations centres. UNICEF’s support helps ensure that the improved access is both sustainable and equitable, reaching the poorest parts of the community.”

For those who live in unplanned urban areas where piped water is impossible to install, water kiosks have been set up in strategic places, often becoming part of a shop selling other items as well, where people in the surrounding area can access cheap, safe water.

Although, nationally, the proportion of people without access to improved water sources declined from 65 per cent in 1990 to 49 per cent in 2015, in rural areas, one in five still use surface water as their primary drinking water source. Moreover, Mozambique has higher open defecation rates than any other country in sub-Saharan Africa (39 per cent). Some 79 per cent of the population lack access to improved sanitation facilities, 90 per cent in rural areas and 58 per cent in urban and peri-urban areas.

Water-borne diseases and diseases associated with poor sanitation and hygiene are a significant problem in Mozambique. For example, in 2015 there were 8,858 cholera cases and 65 deaths registered in 21 districts of six provinces. Young children are particularly at risk. Despite reductions in child mortality, 97 children under 5 die per 1,000 live births, and diarrhoeal diseases remain one of the leading causes of death among children. Moreover, evidence suggests that WASH is an essential intervention to reduce stunting; 43 per cent of children under 5 are severely or moderately stunted in Mozambique.

Women and girls are particularly vulnerable due to lack of WASH services. For example, girls lose time at school as they can be required to collect water, sometimes taking up to two hours of their day, and they are especially at risk of sexual assault if they have to go to the toilet in the bush at night. And children with disabilities can be denied access to a school education when accessible WASH facilities are unavailable or inadequate.

“We use all means of communication, in particular radio, talks, and house visits, to persuade people to change this behaviour, understanding the importance of not just having access to water but also to good improved sanitation and to practise good hygiene” – Juvencio Nhaule, UNICEF.

To benefit from the piped water installation, families in the peri-urban areas and small towns need to have at least an improved latrine outside their homes. However, as Juvencio Nhaule, the UNICEF WASH specialist in Inhambane, points out, “Engaging people in new positive collective practices such as building improved latrines or installing flush toilets, has been the most challenging part of the programme. We use all means of communication, in particular radio, talks, and house visits, to persuade people to change this behaviour, understanding the importance of not just having access to water but also to good improved sanitation and to practise good hygiene.”

Carolina Guirrugo is an activista (volunteer) who does house visits to educate people about good hygiene and the importance of using a toilet. She has managed to convince most people to build latrines, even those with little money to spare. She says that a UNICEF-supported training last year helped her to develop key messages for the community and also guided her on how to encourage individuals to set up saving groups in order to be able to afford to pay for the toilet. In these revolving funds, each person contributes a certain amount each week; with the surplus being pooled so that each member is able to take out a lump sum to build a toilet in due course.

Farida Sileimane, a mother of five children, says if she had not been encouraged to join with her neighbours to pool the funds, she would not have been able to afford to build one. It meant that she had to take on extra work farming on someone else’s plot. “It’s worth it. I now have an improved latrine and a water tap in my yard. The old (traditional) latrine was not good, and the surrounding area was very slippery. I know this one is better for our health, and I now have piped water.” The water supply comes out of a tap in her yard.

Indeed, Guirrugo says that her key message is about good health. “We tell them that flies that sit on uncovered faeces will come back to your food.” Guirrugo earns 1,000 meticais a month (less than US$20) for her sensitisation activities. “I like this work as I learn a lot and I am able to share this information with my community.”

“I now have an improved latrine and a water tap in my yard. The traditional latrine was not good, and the surrounding area was very slippery. I know this one is better for our health, and I now have piped water" — Farida Sileimane, Mother of five.

unicef water sanitation hygiene work in Mozambique