ADRA Improves Children’s Lives One Water Basin and Latrine at a Time

World Water Day brings to the forefront the agency’s initiatives around the world.

ADRA International
ADRA Improves Children’s Lives One Water Basin and Latrine at a Time
A team of ADRA volunteers builds latrines on the island of Vanuatu. [Photo: ADRA International]

The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) highlighted its efforts to improve water and sanitation conditions for communities around the globe on World Water Day, March 22.

The humanitarian organization has significant impact on the lives of children and families by installing water basins and latrines for better access to clean water and improved sanitation. According to the United Nations, 3.5 billion people lack access to adequate toilets, and 2.2 billion do not have safe drinking water.

World Water Day raises global awareness of the importance of water and advocates for sustainable management and development for clean water and sanitation to all by 2030. This year’s theme, “Water for Peace,” emphasizes the close connection between water, conflict, and cooperation.

“For more than 40 years, ADRA water, hygiene, and sanitation projects have impacted countless lives, from rural villages in Africa without access to safe drinking water to Asian towns afflicted by natural disasters,” Josue Orellana, ADRA International’s Director for Health, Nutrition, and Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), said. “ADRA emphasizes the critical role that clean water plays in enhancing children’s health and well-being, especially in disadvantaged communities. Lack of access to clean water and sufficient sanitation facilities can result in the spread of waterborne diseases and poor hygiene practices. By addressing these issues, ADRA contributes to the overall improvement of children’s health and quality of life.”

ADRA maximizes its impact and ensures the sustainability of its projects in regions around the world, including Vanuatu, Madagascar, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, by collaborating with faith groups such as the Seventh-day Adventist Church, as well as local communities and government and humanitarian organizations.

Clean Water Brings Life

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1.4 million deaths could be prevented each year by improving access to safely managed water and sanitation. ADRA has been pioneering research to identify the source of waterborne diseases such as cholera and diarrhea among children in rural areas, despite access to clean water and toilets and routine handwashing. Scientists began watching children’s behaviors, tracking everything the children do from the time they wake up, paying great attention to what they touched, what they ate, and where they got their drinking water, to determine where the contamination was coming from.

“We’re starting to realize that, especially for children under two, even when we provide them clean water and the home has access to a good toilet, a lot of the contamination comes from their living environment, specifically from child-mouthing behaviors,” Tinotenda Muvuti, ADRA International’s WASH Technical Advisor and Program Support, explained. “When the child places their hands in their mouth after coming into contact with the ground, or if they have a toy in their mouth, the germs they are ingesting simply come from being in a dirty environment. And that has to do with people not having latrines, which means high rates of open defecation. So, when it rains, that means that all of that matter is going to be swept close to where the child would normally play.”

World Bank Sanitation and Hygiene reports indicate that 34 percent of the population in Madagascar and 18 percent in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) practiced open defecation in 2022. To address the issue, ADRA has partnered with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to train community members in Asia and Africa to build their latrine pits. The humanitarian agency is also creating water basins, distributing hygiene kits, improving waste management systems, and boosting hygiene awareness and toilet usage through radio campaigns. ADRA Water and Sanitation technical assistant Balilo Pedro Papy even created a song to urge people to use latrines.

“My song has been playing on the radio in the Kasai province of the DRC since 2021,” Papy said. “I’ve heard people playing it on their cell phones and using it as a ringtone. I’ve seen more people building latrines. Before the song, there were no latrines within the 4,000 targeted households in this region, and now there are 1,400 latrines installed.”

ADRA’s efforts to change lives one water basin and latrine at a time are only made possible through the support of generous donors and dedicated volunteers. The global organization continues to seek partnerships and resources to expand its reach and provide even more communities with access to clean water and improved sanitation. On World Water Day and throughout the year, ADRA urged all communities to join the movement to help create a world where every child and family has access to safe, clean water and proper sanitation facilities.

The original version of this story was posted by ADRA International.

ADRA International