The Source of Our Water
by Jennifer Akers, Boké, Guinea
In Boké, the main source of water is the local river, named Batafond. Since Boké is a larger city, there is purified water available from pumps throughout the city. However, this water still would not be considered clean by U.S. standards. In fact, we Volunteers are advised to treat pump water before we drink it. Furthermore, while there are a few pumps, many people do not have easy access to them. These people must rely upon other, less clean solutions. Some dig wells in their yards; others venture out to the nearest stream or river; some save rainwater during the rainy season. Very few people in Boké have running water inside or outside their homes. Rarely is running water available on a consistent basis for those who do depend upon it. Regrettably, almost all of these options offer only water full of bacteria, parasites, and dirt. Thus many health problems—some small, some serious—are common.
As there are two seasons in Guinea—the rainy season and the dry season—the availability of water can change drastically depending on what season it is. During the rainy season, one can get water easily, because the river and its tributary streams are full. However, during the dry season, water is sparse. Sometimes Guineans must walk miles to find water and then return with huge buckets of water on their heads. Since the pumps are dependent on the river, they often dry up during the dry season. I have often heard about fights breaking out at the pumps over the last few drops of water available or the two-hour waits for water. Water is not taken for granted here, as it is in the United States. Guineans recognize the essential role water plays in good health and a long life.
by Shad Engkilterra, Banko, Guinea
My current water supply is from a well in an undisclosed location. Typically, I must ask the father in my concession of huts to send someone to get water; two days later, three or four kids show up, take my bidons, and come back with water 20 minutes later. The water is clear to a depth of five centimeters. It becomes a white, smoky color further down. After a day, the sediment settles to the bottom of the bucket.
As a rule, Banko has hand pumps (mine has been broken for more than four months). These pumps are used by anyone in the area and every four months everyone pays 500 francs for general maintenance and lubrication. Pump water tends to be safe to drink straight. Well water can be boiled, iodized, or chlorinated to purify it.
Outside of Banko village, hand pumps are rare—most people are serviced by wells. Souarelanindo, a community of roughly 400 people, is served by a "bas-fond." During the dry season, the place where the water is found is a laundromat/shower/bath. The water is about one meter from the opening. It is murky white.
During the rainy season, people put all of their containers under the roof drainage to use for washing clothes. Water becomes rarer as the dry season progresses and wells dry up.