The project made possible through the partnership of Water Charity and the National Peace Corps Association.
This water filter construction training project for women in the village of Minova, Democratic Republic of Congo, has been completed under the direction of Herman Chirahambali and Friendly Water For The World Volunteer Eliphaz Bashilwango.
It involved teaching a group of women to make bio-sand water filters, providing them with the raw materials, molds and tools, and getting them proficient in the technology so they could continue to manufacture these units… as well as teach others to make them.
This is a further update follow up report with more testimonials. A full conclusion report has already been filed for this project. To read that report, CLICK HERE. To read about the beginning of the project, CLICK HERE.
In November 2012, after beating defeated by militias, troops of the Congolese National Army retreated from Goma in northeast Congo to the town of Minova, where they raped at least 141 women, and raped and pillaged the town. Many of the women either became pregnant or contracted HIV. Their husbands left them, and with them, all income including that required for their children to attend school. Two years later, a show trial was held. All 39 low-ranking soldiers tried were acquitted – it was generally agreed they were rapists, but which soldier raped which woman could not be identified.
In October 2016, Water Charity & Friendly Water provided training and equipment to the women of Minova in fabricating and distributing BioSand Filters. In less than three months, they built and installed 172 BioSand Filters, and netted almost $9,000, enough to feed themselves, for medical care, and to send their children to school.
Their business continued to expand, as the community now realized that they had a reliable source of clean water. They purchased more steel molds, making it possible for them to produce some nine Filters a day. When a cholera epidemic struck two neighboring refugee camps, with hundreds of sickened and several dozen deaths, the women provided them with BioSand Filters. Cholera was eliminated in three weeks. As a result, the local health administration decreed that every restaurant, café, and club in Minova should be equipped with a BioSand Filter. To date, the women of Minova have built and installed more than 1,100 BioSand Filters, providing clean water to more than 24,000 people, and the program has now spread to two more communities of survivors of war-time rape to produce BioSand Water Filters.
Since then, the partnership between WC & FW has resulted in dozens of training and produced many thousands of filters in areas where such devices can mean life or death. The production of filters has also been an economic boon to the many groups and individuals trained. While we cannot say exactly how many people are drinking clean water now because of this program and the many that followed, hundreds of thousands of people in the most impacted areas of Africa have benefitted.
The following are some more testimonies gathered from real people in Minova, more than one year after the training there:
“My name is CHRISTINE DABUYE. I am the mother of four children, a daughter, and three boys. I do not know the father of my daughter because I was raped by members of the military in 2012. The BioSand project has helped me become psychologically stable, especially as I get to work with other women in a similar condition. In difficult living situations, I believed that the high frequency of recurrent cholera in my family was a curse. But since I have a BioSand Filter in my home, cholera, typhoid fever, and diarrhea no longer affect my family.”
“My name is DADE SHAIMBU. I am a teacher. I very much appreciate the work done by women. After the installation of BioSand Filters, there has been a real improvement in eliminating waterborne diseases and especially cholera in my village Buganga. Last year, cholera killed 14 kids in our village, including my daughter. As a result, I am now a great advocate of the BioSand Filters, and I am advising all my co-workers at the Minova school to get Filters for the better health of their families.”
“My name is COMBI BIROLI. I am a refugee living in the Buganga refugee camp. Since as of yet there are no BioSand Filters in the camp, I walk around six kilometers to get filtered water from a friend who lives in Minova and owns a Filter. I make the walk twice a week and get 20 liters of water at each visit. My family now only drinks filtered water to avoid getting sick. We use non-filtered water for other household needs. Life is very difficult, but I do not regret the distance I have to go to get filtered water, as it has already stopped all waterborne diseases in my family.”
“My name is NYIRONDESE. I live in Minova, and I help my friend Combi Biroli from the refugee camp get clean water from my Filter for free. When visiting, he likes to shower with the filtered water, and he loves that his skin feels a lot healthier. His only wish is that the camp refugees would have access to the Filters as well, so he wouldn’t lose so many friends to waterborne diseases.”
“My name is HERI. I was raped, and then abandoned, and became very depressed. I was hospitalized many times for waterborne illnesses, which only added to my distress. Now I own a BioSand Filter and it has changed my life for the better. No more amoebic dysentery, diarrhea, or typhoid fever that had always threatened me. Now I am healthy and happy. People have started calling met to get information on how they can get a Filter. I am now a salesperson for the Minova group, and I make enough money to support myself.”
“My name is MAMA MAAJABU LUSENGE. I’m 22 years old. I was raped three years ago. After that, all my friends left me, and I found myself isolated and completely alone. The trauma caused me a severe psychotic break and depression. Working with other mothers in the BioSand filter workshop has helped me integrate myself into the community again. It also helped me reconstruct my ambition to pursue school again. Now I can afford to pay the school fee and I’m feeling more confident and independent. I will be starting school next year. To be able to go back to school, I created a saving system from BioSand Filter sales. I put small amounts of money in a box from each sale, which within a year will be enough to pay for the next school year.”
“My name is MAMA VERONIQUE. I am a mother of eight children, all at school age. I was raped by the Congolese National Army and abandoned by my husband after the rape. I have no income, and my children are not able to attend school. Three of my eight children suffer from severe malnutrition, and all my children have at some point suffered from waterborne diseases, in particular, cholera and typhoid. After I was trained in the making of BioSand Filters and have a little income, my family’s health has improved dramatically. My kids are healthy, and we have a little food on the table. I’m also planning on sending them back to school next year.”
“I am MAMA BAGAYA FURAHA. I am a farmer taking care of my nine children plus my sister’s three orphans. My sister and her husband were killed during the war. It is a great burden, which at most times I’m unable to bear. I wasn’t able to secure enough food for the family. The kids were sick all the time from drinking bad water. After I brought a BioSand Filter home, all the kids are healthy, and there are no cases of cholera or typhoid at our house. The two kids I am able to send to school are now attending more regularly because they are healthy and happy. Because the weather in Minova is very hot. I came up with a strategy to sell cool clean water. I pack water in small plastic bags that I sell for 100 Congolese francs (10 cents) at the bus stop to the passengers. Now I make about $4 a day to buy food for my kids. I’m planning on getting a cooler powered with solar panels to make my own ice instead of buying it for 2$. This means that I will be making 6$ a day instead of $4. I will then be able to send all my kids to school instead of just two.”
“My name is NYIRANDEZE. I am the father of a family of four children. After I started using the BioSand filter I feel strong and healthy again. Before, I wasn’t able to work. I wasn’t able to provide for my family, which was very hard on my wife and kids. I remained in bed for a very long time. I suffered from typhoid and was taking meds for months with no positive results. I even started to think I was bewitched. After the installation of a BioSand Filter at my house and I started taking my meds with clean water, I started to feel better. It is a miracle.”
“My name is AMINATHA. I am the mother of six children. I wasn’t able to get a BioSand Filter for my family. However, I was able to use the neighboring family’s filter. We only use the Filter for drinking water, and I’m seeing a big improvement in my family’s health. I solicited the group of moms who build the Filters to make a Filter for me, for which I’m paying $2 a week. I already paid $30 and am almost done paying for the filter. The Filter has been a great investment because now my family is healthy, and we use clean water for all our household activities. not just drinking water. I was hospitalized several times for typhoid fever (at least eight times in a five-month interval). After I started drinking filtered water, I’m feeling great.”
“I am JEAN-MARIE. We are a couple with HIV couple who, before the BioSand filter, were always expecting death at any moment. Today we live a normal life and are in good health. We are not afraid of opportunistic diseases anymore. With the medication we have and clean drinking water, we live a better life. One month after the use of the Filter coupled with vigorous hygiene, we feel better and our strength is restored. We have named the Filter “Miracle Filter”.
“My name is MWENGESHIALI. I am 58 years old and a widow. Since I started drinking clean water, I feel healthier, stronger, and younger. Even my skin has become smoother because I wash my skin with clean water without microbes attacking my skin. Before, I had no energy or strength to do my daily shores my strength has returned, and I now work normally. I think if you drink clean water you will not age quickly.”