Health and Nutrition
by Brandon Lundy, São Domingos, Cape Verde
Two serious health-related problems are the lack of access to potable water and inappropriate sanitation facilities. The few freshwater sources that exist on the islands are difficult to access and expensive to exploit. In general, the country's few springs are found in mountainous regions far from population centers. The task of distributing, storing, and handling safe water in dispersed, isolated, rural communities is extremely difficult. Those in the rural areas generally access water in three ways: using donkeys to haul the water; waiting in a long line to buy water by the bucket from a public tank; or getting it directly from a natural water source. Many of those in the towns have access to piped water. None of these water sources is protected from contamination. Several Peace Corps Volunteers are working to create a system where the water is chlorinated as it is loaded into the tanker or when it is loaded into the public tank.
Further complicating access to safe water is the lack of proper sanitation facilities. For the most part, neither communities nor individual homes are equipped with adequate plumbing, washing facilities, or disposal systems for human waste. The lack of adequate water and sanitation systems, combined with the lack of community awareness of basic health issues related to water and sanitation, accounts for the fact that diarrhea and waterborne diseases continue to be the primary cause of infant mortality in Cape Verde. The government of Cape Verde recognizes that to come to terms with these problems it must adopt a two-pronged strategy. It must increase access to water and sanitation systems and it must develop a creative and effective preventive health system. This strategy will require the active participation of those affected by problems related to potable water and proper sanitation.