Reflections: David DeArmey, Director of Operations
Since starting my work with Water for Good 18 months ago, the level of insecurity in the Central African Republic often prevented me from traveling much outside of our operations bases. But in my most recent trip, things were different. I was able to cover close to 600 miles for two very distinct missions.
Water for Good staff Left to Right: Hilaire (Security Coordinator), Ludovic (WaSH Coordinator), David (Director of Community Development) and Gerard (driver and whatever else needs done).
Mission 1: Evaluate completed projects and connect with our team
My first mission was to assess the 65 well rehabilitations (major repair projects) of water wells that Water for Good conducted in partnership with World Vision. We also got to evaluate the impact of the sanitation and hygiene training our teams performed at each community, which supported the efforts of rehabilitating each of the wells. Water for Good also built new latrines for four schools and four medical centers which had been severely affected during the war.
Along with Ludovic, our Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Coordinator, and Hilaire, our Security Coordinator, we covered all of the sites in just three days, traveling close to 400 miles on roads. Some of the roads were asphalt, and others were dirt paths so poorly maintained that it would take us an hour to cover five miles. We had to eat food available at towns along our journey, which included some unusual options for me: rats.
We visited towns such as Boali, Boyali, Njoh, Pama, Bossembele, and Yaloké. These towns would sadly sound familiar to anyone who pays close attention to the war in CAR; they have been scenes of some of the most tragic inter-ethnic and military violence. I was curious to see how things are there now. While driving between these main towns, I noticed that the war has left obvious wounds: destroyed houses, villages completely void of the usual farm animals (goats, chicken, pigs) that usually roam freely, burnt buildings, and a lot of shops in a state of ruin along the road.
But this was contrasted with something unusual. Most, if not all, the pumps we drove by or inspected functioned perfectly. I didn’t need to ask myself how this could be true. I knew that the water pump maintenance program covers the vast majority of these wells, and that our technicians have worked in all of these communities before, during, and since active military conflict.
The contrast between general destruction and all these functioning water pumps is striking!
Mission 2: Build relationships with villagers along the Damara Road
My second mission was with Arc Solutions, an awesome partner who has allowed Water for Good to take on community health and sanitation training in towns close to Bangui. These towns were particularly affected by armed conflict. We visited these towns on what is known as the Damara Road – the road taken by rebels to come down to Bangui, and to leave Bangui when they were ousted. We took the time to hear what these communities had to say. They said enough for us to understand that they were still in a state of trauma. We were glad to have been able to share good hygiene and sanitation practices with them and to repair some of their wells that had suffered disrepair and abandonment.
All Central Africans have suffered from this war, but some areas have fallen harder than others. Damara Road is among those areas that fell so hard that the remaining inhabitants believe they will not get back up. Thus, our presence, visit, and time together was sobering for us, and an encouragement to them. They welcomed our presence as a sign that someone beyond their communities is actually interested in their future.
I believe that Water for Good plays a critical role in the CAR in providing clean water and sustaining close to a thousand wells across the most populated areas of the country. I was pleased to finally be able to make my way up and down roads, to see the thousands of people we’ve reached with continuous access to clean water. The country is still not safe, and the obstacles are still very real, but water is a crucial pillar to development. The country is starting over. If clean water is available, the country will be more able to build a better future.