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Muleba, Tanzania, 17 Jan 08

Kelezensia Melkioli has finally seen her prayers answered. Having spent nearly all her life in Kazirantemwa village, some 600 kilometers north east of Dar es Salaam, the 55 year old mother of eleven knows first hand the troubles women of the area go through in their daily quest for water for domestic use.

The pattern has been predictable- wake up as early as possible, join up with other women in the village and head to the Nyamwala spring to fetch water. Because of lack of adequate protection, the quality of water from the spring was not assured and most of the time, human activity around it impacted adversely on the flow of water.

For a long time, the women, to whom Nyamwala represented the only source of water, wished for someone to come to their aid to ensure adequate protection for the water catchment area and for an assurance of year round availability.

It was therefore with great appreciation that Kelezensia and her colleagues from the village joined with other dignitaries when Tanzanian head of state Jakayo Mrisho Kikwete came to their village last week to inaugurate the rehabilitation work at the springs.

A project jointly carried out by UN-HABITAT and the Government of Tanzania, the rehabilitation works has seen a perimeter fence constructed around the fence and instead of the residents fetching water straight from the spring, pipes complete with a tap have been laid.

"We are very happy with the improvements in that we can now have the assurance that our spring is well protected. As beneficiaries, we are also committing ourselves to ensuring that this project becomes self sustaining," Kelezensia said.

The same was echoed by President Kikwete who challenged the local authorities not to leave the project’s sustainability solely in the hands of the women.

"Regular maintenance is the only way the project can continue to benefit you. I believe that rehabilitation is deferred maintenance, so let us not wait for the project to deteriorate and then embark on costly rehabilitation as the funds used in such an endeavour could be used in starting other projects," he said.

President Kikwete was accompanied by senior government officials as he joined members of the public and a UN-HABITAT mission led by Mr. Bert Diphoorn, Acting Director of the Human Settlements and Finance Division in a colourful ceremony during which he lauded the work of the agency in supporting his government’s efforts to improve access to clean drinking water for underserved communities.

Noting that the UN-HABITAT project dovetails into the overall vision of the Tanzanian government to make portable water available within 400 meters of all households by 2017, the President reiterated his government’s commitment to the water and sanitation targets of the Millennium Development Goals.

"Our aim is to achieve this vision within the context of the Millennium Development Goals which we have committed ourselves to," he said.

The camaraderie that sprung from the common water collection point has had a big spin off. Kelezensia and her friends are now the proud members of the Bikorwengonzi women group which is engaged in tree planting around water catchments areas in their village.

To raise funds for their activities, the 30 or so members of the group- whose name means to act out of love- take up casual jobs on farms and other places and get paid for their work. They are also engaged in poultry farming.

The Nyamwala spring rehabilitation’s main aim was to benefit the 29,000 residents of the nearby Muleba who have suffered from a severe shortage of safe drinking water for a long time. Surveys carried out by UN-HABITAT showed that over 88% of the people in the town had no access to safe drinking water. More than 50% of the town residents have been relying on water vendors whose supplies are often limited, unsafe and at a high cost.

The Nyamwala spring, which has been the main source of water for the town had deteriorated over time and the gravity pipeline from the spring to the town was in such poor condition that very little water was actually reaching the town.

It was in this situation that UN-HABITAT agreed with the Government of Tanzania to include Muleba as one of the 6 towns for the first phase of the Lake Victoria Water and Sanitation Initiative. UN-HABITAT and local authorities in Muleba gave urgent priority to the rehabilitation of the Nyamwala Spring Intake and gravity pipeline serving the town to bring immediate relief from the extreme hardship experienced due to lack of safe drinking water.

The improvements so far enable delivery of about 540 cubic meters of water per day, enough to supply about 40% of the town residents with an adequate water service. In the next coming months, focus shift to the development of a major new water supply source at the Ihako Springs, located 11 km from the town, improving the water distribution system, and providing better sanitation starting with public institutions.

The physical improvements in the water and sanitation infrastructure are being complemented by a programme of training and capacity building to ensure that the local authorities have the necessary capacity to operate and maintain the improved infrastructure being provided.

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