Water Protection and Targeting BehaviourAbednego Chigumbu - Thursday 11 May 2006
The provision of safe drinking water requires that project implementers approach it with certain practical considerations, especially when it relates to rural populations. Disinfecting water at the household level, whether by boiling, use of chemicals, ultra-violet rays, etc, may be easier said than done for a number of reasons - financial, social, cultural, time constraints, knowledge and attitudes towards the role played by water in disease causation, etc. It is my view that methods that render existing sources safer through physical protection are more sustainable and produce better results. The use of water treatment agents may only have a limited impact for the duration of a project or outside intervention. Once the project is over people usually slide back to their old practices. In this regard the upgrading of family wells has been known to produce positive and long-lasting health and social impacts. If the water source is also linked to some productive use then the benefits are further multiplied. Household ownership of the well ensures that breakdowns are attended to whenever they occur and with little or no external assistance. Communal sources, on the other hand, may be perceived as belonging to the implementing agency. The use of participatory health and hygiene education techniques in behaviour change communication can never be over-emphasised if safe household level use and storage of water is to be realised. Fears, beliefs, myths and misconceptions need to be dealt with in a friendly and non-threatening atmosphere and informed decisions made by the affected people.