Health and Nutrition
by Lorie Burnett, Korogwe, Tanga Region, Tanzania
Water comes from pipes and is clean except in the beginning of the rainy season, when it is visibly muddy. During those times, I sift the water through a T-shirt and then let the rest of the impurities settle to the bottom of the storage containers. I always boil water for drinking, but all other water—including water for brushing my teeth—I just use straight from the tap.
I have seen people gathering water from stagnant-looking ponds and I am fairly sure that for people in the villages, without electricity, it is not customary to boil water. This is mostly due to the lack of knowledge of the importance of boiling water. Further, boiling water would require even more firewood, an often-precious commodity that people carry for great distances.
Occasionally, there are outbreaks of cholera or typhoid due to the contaminated water, but I have not yet witnessed one of these.
I lived with a host family in Ausha who was well-off by Tanzanian standards. They boiled their drinking water. I imagine this is the case among people who are educated and who have the financial means.
by Gary Port, Morogoro (Mzumbe), Tanzania
The drinking water is usually very clear, but still unsuitable for immediate drinking, due to the contamination by cholera. All water here is boiled before drinking. A few years back an attempt was made to treat the water with chlorine. A container of chlorine was placed in the large storage tank with a timer to release a certain dose periodically. But the people found that this process was too expensiv,e and too high a concentration of chlorine was needed to sterilize the water. Also, the water didn't sit in the tank long enough before people used it. They eventually returned to just boiling water. The trouble with boiling, however, is that heating enough water for over 1,500 people every day takes a lot of firewood and energy, so it is quite expensive. Some of the poorer families can't afford this so they risk cholera infection drinking unboiled water.
When a cholera outbreak occurs here, it's a very dangerous and serious matter. Last year, a few local people died of the disease.