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Celebrate World Water Day with a village in Uganda

Today is World Water Day and we are in Apur Ki Opko, a village named after its lack of water.

The village of Apur Ki Opoko is filled with the sounds of people playing instruments, singing and dancing, because today they have a real reason to celebrate! The Drop in the Bucket team are present for a ceremony with local village and district officials to officially hand over a newly-drilled well for fresh water. Amidst the excitement, a voice cuts through the sounds of laughter.

Village children stand by the new well at Apur Ki Opoko

“I was born here, I grew up here and I will die here,” boasts Ocen Marcelino proudly. He’s the village chairperson, and he points at a pumpkin-like gourd laying on the ground nearby. “This is the calabash gourd, and our village takes its name from these gourds.” He goes on to explain that in the past women from the village used these gourds to fetch water. They would walk to a distant swamp and use the calabash to dig down into the ground. Once they had dug deep enough, they would use the gourd to collect the water and carry it back to the village. He then explains that name Apur Ki Opoko literally means “I dig with Calabash.”Ocen looks at the smiling crowd and jokes “Maybe now that we have this well, we can change the name of the village”

Janet Ajok, a woman from the village, greets our drillers with a warm smile. “Thank you for the new well!” she beams. “The water we were getting was from a waterhole that was also used by animals. We had to use it for cooking and drinking. We are so happy to finally have this well and clean water!”

An elderly woman named Rose Ayoo leaves a group of people dancing to join us. “I am so happy that this happened during my lifetime. I have dreamed of this moment for so long,” she says, visibly overwhelmed. Around her neck she is wearing a calabash gourd, a reminder of the daily struggle for water she endured for so much of her life, and a symbol of the joy she feels because she will never have to make that walk carrying a calabash again. 

Today is World Water Day, and today we all get to celebrate with Rose, Janet and the people of Apur Ki Opoko. This is a day they will always remember, as the new well will change their lives forever.

From everyone at Drop in the Bucket, we wish you a Happy World Water Day, and thank you for making our work possible for all these years. 

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The Alero Health Center III Needs Clean Water

Where a Newborn was Instantly Affected by a Water Problem

Awor Stella, resident midwife at the Alero Health Center III sits behind her desk.

After a long and tiring day at the Alero Health Center III, Awor Stella, the facility’s resident midwife, was resting in the nearby sleeping quarters. It was 2am, and outside she could hear voices that sounded like they were coming closer. When she heard her name being called, she instinctively jumped up, realizing what was needed.

She thought back to how several hours earlier she had washed down the delivery bed and cleaned all of the equipment, using the last of the facilities available water. She knew tomorrow would be another busy day and had planned on being ready in advance. What she had not anticipated was an emergency late-night delivery. 

January in Uganda falls in the middle of a dry season, and this year was particularly dry. The Alero Health Center III did not have its own source of clean water. It did have a rain water harvesting tank, but the extreme weather resulted in an empty tank, leaving health center staff to collect water from local sources every morning. The local sources were predominantly hand-dug wells, locally referred to as unprotected springs. While these wells produced water, it was groundwater that was neither clean nor safe – but it was often the only water available.

“I was lucky that I had cleaned the equipment and delivery bed, but not so lucky in that more clean water would still be needed after the delivery,” explained Awor. She had to act fast, so she collected all of the water she had in her home and brought it to the delivery room. It was late and dark outside, which made the idea of walking to the nearest well out of the question. It would be too dangerous for her at this time of night.

Awor shook her head and explained how common this situation was for midwives in East Africa, where so many health centers lack access to clean water.  “Health facility workers often go to the local residents to ask them if they have water they can spare when there is an emergency,” she explained. It is not a safe or sustainable situation, and it often results in needless deaths.  

With fatigue showing on her face, Awor has asked if Drop In The Bucket would drill a well for her health center. She knows we helped other facilities in the region, and with clean water the health center would be able to help children like Lagum Prossy, the community’s newest member. Although Lagum’s first moments were challenging that early January morning, we are happy to say she made it – thanks to Awor Stella and the staff at the Alero Health Center III. 

Now we just need to get them clean water.