Ghana: New wells boost school attendance, improve public health

22 Mar 2010

Villagers in Zukpuri draw water from a new well.
(Photo: UNDP/CWI/SGP)

Villagers in Zukpuri Traditional Area had poor access to potable water supply and very low sanitation conditions. In the dry season, women and children often spend over three hours daily looking for water from the Black Volta River, located some 4 kilometres away. Past attempts to combat waterborne diarrheal and guinea worm disease by advising people to sieve and boil water before drinking were unsuccessful due to deeply entrenched spiritual and cultural beliefs.

As part of UNDP’s Community Water Initiative in Zukpuri, 10 young men and women received training in well drilling, pump testing, water quality testing and community water management. The group quickly enlisted the help of other community members, and the community appointed well caretakers and committees to ensure the wells were maintained.

When it was discovered that people who drank water from the wells and boiling water were not getting sick, in less than a year 65 percent of the villagers began drinking from the wells. Because of reduced illness rates and more time to devote to other activities, school attendance rates increased from 25 percent to 95 percent. With the clean water, women were able to produce higher quality shea butter, a key economic activity for the community.

Other communities requested the UNDP-trained villagers of Zukpuri to help them establish wells. In response, the local government now gives contracts to the group to construct hand pump wells, creating employment for 30 young people. The group has now constructed more than 30 wells in 16 communities, providing more than 26,000 people with access to safe supplies of water.