Frontline Stories

Contaminated water no longer a problem in Bulanda, Zambia


The people of Bulanda village in Zambia despise their water source. “I don’t like this water at all,” says 9-year-old Dorcas. Everyone in the village agrees with the spunky little girl. This water is awful. Truly hideous. The dirty water hole serves 86 households in this village.

“A cow fell in [the water hole] today,” says villager Rosina, 44. “A group of cows were drinking and a calf fell in. Another cow fell in five days ago.” Neither cow died, but a dog did. “The dog fell in three weeks ago. It decayed,” says Rosina. “We couldn’t see the dog but then the fur floated to the surface. The dog fell in deep and got coiled up in some roots. We used a stick to unhook the dog. “When it came up, it was white, like it had been skinned.”

Perpetually sick and unschooled

Dorcas, 9, and her cousin Beauty, 13, live with Mera, their grandmother. “Both their mothers are married,” says Mera. “I asked them to live here and help me out.” Mera needs her granddaughters’ help to survive. She is HIV-positive and often sick.

When they aren’t sick themselves or taking care of their granny, both girls go to Bulanda Basic School. “Dorcas is a girl who loves school and playing,” says Mera. But Dorcas must also help fetch water four times a day from the dirty water hole.

“She usually has diarrhoea, but she is a strong girl,” continues Mera. “She makes herself do things, even if she is not well.” Mera looks at Dorcas with a grandmother’s love, while the girl busily scrubs an iron pot. “When I look at Dorcas,” says Mera, “I see someone who will excel at school. But when she gets sick, or I get sick, she stays home. She will have a bright future if we get water.”

Cobert, 42, the headmaster at school looks through Dorcas’ attendance records and muses sadly, “I wonder if Dorcas has reported this term?” The book reveals nothing but a string of absences. The quarter before showed that Dorcas was absent 12 times in nine weeks.

Dorcas is not alone

Around the world, 663 million people have no access to clean water. Without clean water, they can die. Diseases due to contaminated water and poor sanitation took the lives of 300,000 children under 5 in 2015. That is 34 children an hour. It is as if every hour of every day, a classroom full of children disappears forever.

Women and girls around the world, just like Dorcas, spend 200 million hours each day collecting water. Not only is this a waste of time, it takes away from the valuable things a woman or girl could be doing, such as studying, being with family, working, or even resting.

This is why World Vision has worked for 30 years to provide safe water and improved sanitation and hygiene for those who need it. With a team of 500 experts working in communities around the world, World Vision reaches one new person with safe water every 30 seconds.

Clean water: A new life

Dorcas is one of those people. She and her community now have a new well. Dorcas’ cousin, Beauty, pumped the first mouthfuls of clean water from a borehole in the middle of the community — just a short walk away from Dorcas’ house. Dorcas has a sponsor, who loves her — Bonnie, a mother of two boys. Dorcas is her girl.

Today Dorcas is a different person, so as her grandmother, Mera, who is in much better health. Mera is no longer sick all the time and can take her medication. Because Dorcas is back in school, she has moved to fifth place in her class. “But I want to be first,” she says. And knowing this tenacious little girl, she will.

Watch a video about Dorcas or learn more about Child Sponsorship Programme.

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