Seeing the water effect with Dougray Scott
When WaterAid ambassador and actor Dougray Scott visited Mozambique, he saw how clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene can be the start of a very different future.
We live in a very privileged world just by the geography of where we happen to be born, and I feel particularly blessed with the opportunities my career has brought me. When WaterAid asked me to see the impact of their work in support of The Water Effect campaign, I wanted to do all that I could do to help.
Our first stop was the small village of Musasse which had a primary school, but very little services available – the nearest hospital was ten kilometres away. Most of the families have no form of transport, and have to walk on foot when medical treatment is required.
The long walk to water: 'there was no clean water in the village'
Even more shocking to me was that there was no clean water in the village. None at all, not even provided in the school. Water was collected from a nearby river, a two-hour round trip in the scorching sun for the women and girls that this task traditionally falls upon.
Speaking to twelve-year-old student Josefina I felt my heart breaking as she told me she had never tasted clean water and that she had no idea what it would taste like. She knew the water was dirty but there was nowhere to collect clean water. To me and you, to have never tasted clean water is unimaginable. It isn’t right that there are still children worldwide drinking water that is dirty and making them sick.
With these words ringing in my ears I then met Gracinda, and joined her and two of her children including five-year-old Dina on the journey that she makes three times a day to the nearest water source. At the bottom of a steep hill, we stopped at a crevice in the ground. I watched as Gracinda starting scooping water from a small puddle of filthy water, pooled in the bottom of the hole. This hand-dug well was so small they had to wait for the spring to refill in between filling buckets. Flies gathered around the water and I could see dead frogs floating in it. It was hard to watch.
Gracinda told me she knew that the water wasn’t clean, that it made her children sick and it tasted bad. But what choice did she have? It was either drink this or die. What a choice. I couldn’t believe that there are millions of women around the world making this decision for their families every single day.
She told me her hopes were for her children to grow up healthy and have a better life than she's had. That is all any of us want for our children. But without clean water, that will be a difficult hope for Gracinda, and many other mothers to realise.
The ripple effect
The next day we visited the villages of Mucuapa and Solomba who have had the support of WaterAid. They now have clean water close to their homes and decent toilets to use.
I wasn’t sure how much difference I would be able to notice straight away – would it be apparent? But as I walked into the village I was immediately struck by the positive atmosphere in the air. There was a real buzz; women were gathering in groups to socialise around the communal water point, children were playing and laughing and looked clean in their school uniforms. The school director there, Domingoes told me that since the school had access to clean water, handwashing points and toilet blocks had been installed, their attendance rate has been 100%! The children take these good hygiene messages home and encourage their families to wash their hands regularly too, particularly before cooking and eating.
"With the extra time now... I can do everything."
I met Florinda in the village. Now she has clean water close to home, not only are her children healthier but she’s able to spend more time with them. And even has more time to grow crops to sell and feed her family with. She also has her own ecological toilet (yes there is such a thing!) which turns human waste into fertiliser to help her grow even more crops. Mentioning the village, she commented on how the community had come together more since clean water had arrived. There was a sense of progress, of real change and that people’s lives were less stressful. For Florinda, the benefits of having clean water and a toilet will keep on increasing for her and her family.
It was obvious they had a better quality of life. A few simple changes had made all the difference in stopping the spread of disease that had been holding back this community. Clean water points and toilets had literally regenerated this entire village, it was staggering to see.
In Mozambique over half the population are living without clean water, so the support of charities like WaterAid is critical. Now I have seen it for myself, I see how something as simple as clean water and a toilet can be a springboard to a community, and transform their futures for the better.
That is why I’m supporting The Water Effect campaign. Without clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene, people can’t stay healthy. Children are frequently sick and miss school. Parents are too ill, or too busy caring for their families, to work. With clean water, children like Josefina will have the opportunity to go to school and grow into healthy adults, and parents like Gracinda can work to support themselves and their families.
Your donations will do even more than save lives. They will start a ripple that goes on transforming every area of daily life. Make a donation now.