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The 'Power of We'

Eurico Azevedo is WaterAid Mozambique's Communications Officer. He examines the "Power of We" from the community of Hulene in Mozambique.

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15 Oct 2012 | Mozambique

Welcome to WaterAid's blog post for Blog Action Day, 15 October 2012 

We are an international non governmental organisation with a mission to transform lives by improving access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation in the world's poorest communities.

Eurico Azevedo is WaterAid in Mozambique's Communications Officer. Here Eurico examines the "Power of We" from the community of Hulene in Mozambique.

The neighbourhood or 'bairro' of Hulene is located in the outskirts of Maputo, the capital of Mozambique. It is home to the only waste and sanitation management dump in the city and recognised by local authorities as the official deposit for the waste of two million people living in Maputo.

However, this is not a modern landfill site but a rudimentary and open dumping ground. Every type of waste is deposited at Hulene. There is no separation of rubbish and what is termed 'management' is really the process of burning whatever is there.

For administration purposes, the city officials divided Hulene into two zones, A and B. The dump is located in zone B. It is on this side that the Health Department reported the gravest incidents of cholera and diseases caused by an unsafe environment.

But I am speaking in the past, because Hulene is changing.

Coming together

For the past four years, the neighbourhood has been helped by WaterAid's urban project work. WaterAid worked with city officials to develop a water, sanitation and hygiene programme at Hulene and supported the creation of a community-based organisation, responsible for carrying out the project activities.

In partnership with the community, WaterAid helped to influence local government to bring a clean and safe water supply right into the heart of Hulene, fixed the broken public pipes, set up kiosks selling water and fought to reduce the price of water by expensive private operators.

We believe that water, sanitation and hygiene are crucial to improving lives but we know that changes in communities can only be sustained when all elements work together. What I think is most exciting about Hulene is how the community has worked together to solve their problems.

This week I visited Hulene. The clouds of smoke and the smell of burning continue to hover in the air, because the dump is still there, but a newfound cleanliness and hygiene has already been rooted amongst the residents.

The streets are clean; the trash vans circulate daily through the neighbourhood and the improved latrines are in use. There has been a huge evolution in the construction of toilets by the community in a very short time - from open defecation just a few years ago to the emergence of septic tanks and modern toilets. The water fountains and kiosks no longer have huge queues; most families now pay reduced water rates.

The environmental conditions in Hulene are changing as the community continues to introduce new innovations and adaptations to help improve their surroundings and develop long lasting tools and solutions. Despite the continuous bad smell and smoke from the dump, there has been no disease in the area since the community project started. It is clean.

Alexandre Fandela, president of the community association, says that while still functioning as a neighbourhood, the community is starting to think like a company or business. He gives some examples of their ongoing actions:

"To reduce maintenance costs on vans, we opened a garage. We no longer pay for repair work and the cleaning vans can cover more ground in less time which helps generate an income for the community. Later this year, we will grow our own vegetables and raise small birds to sell. We think like a big company these days."

Due to pressure from the residents of Hulene, spurred on by their new clean environment, the government has announced that from 2013 the dump in the zone will be terminated. A modern landfill will be built outside Maputo instead.

I believe that when this happens, it will be another opportunity for healthier winds to blow for the residents of Hulene, whose enthusiasm and commitment to the improvement of their standard of living already deserves the respect and support of us all.

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