The Ndangan Water Project was launched in 2012, as a response to the immediate needs of the shanty town community of Ndangan outside the capital city Banjul.
Deadly water at Ndangan
Since the settlement’s formation, the children of Ndangan were being exposed to deadly water-borne diseases, the product of collecting water from a sanatorium in the city of Banjul. The water was riddled with bacteria, dirt and human waste, causing many of the children to contract illnesses and infections. Many of the children were suffering from fevers brought on by the water they were drinking and bathing in, and the lack of basic medications and vaccinations made the illnesses impossible to treat. Diseases such as cholera and dysentery were killing children through dehydration or internal infections, the very same water-related diseases that cause 3.4 million deaths in children under 10 globally each year.
The accumulation of mosquitoes, attracted by stagnant water, was leading to severe levels of malaria among the community. Both children and adults were being affected, particularly in the rainy season where drinking water mixed with polluted rain and humidity in the air. Malaria remains the biggest killer of children in West Africa, and none of the children at Ndangan had access to preventative medicine. Threadbare mosquito nets were hung in the huts where the children slept, but they were torn and ineffective.
The effects of these illnesses were wide-reaching – with so much frequent sickness, the children were missing school or felt too unwell to concentrate and participate properly. Their education was suffering, their childhoods wrought with pain, and their lives were at risk. Severe illness was having a psychological effect, too, with many children displaying signs of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. Their parents and guardians despaired, with no money or resources to ease their children’s pain.
Planning the project
When Child Aid Gambia first began working in Ndangan, we realised that securing a safe water source for the settlement was the most pressing issue. We made it our priority to begin fundraising and planning for a water pipeline that would run from Banjul’s main water grid, siphoning a source directly into Ndangan and allowing the community themselves to maintain and pay for their own water as much as possible.
In the initial planning stages of the project, we realised that the problem would not be solved by a well or borehole. The settlement is located by the river leading into the ocean, and so drilling downwards would only result in drawing up dirty, saline water from the Atlantic. The only feasible solution was to instruct the water board to construct a pipeline leading into the middle of the shanty town, where clean water could be distributed to the entire community.
We met with the previous mayor of Banjul, Abdoulie Bah, several times in the process of the project to acquire the correct planning permissions and ensure that we had support of the Banjul authorities. Mayor Bah commended us on our efforts to bring aid to a hidden part of the district that was unknown to much of the city, and was compassionate and understanding of the needs of the children living in Ndangan. Mayor Bah unfortunately passed away in 2018 after a short illness, but his contribution to the success of the project is remembered.
The work begins
Once funding for the pipeline and our plans had been secured, work on the pipeline could begin. The groundwork was mostly completed by the water board engineers from NAWEC, who were able to siphon off the pipeline from the city’s main water supply. From there, the community of Ndangan banded together to build the rest of the pipeline running directly into the settlement, assisting the engineers to find the most suitable access point. The work took place across 18 months, and in the final stages, the entire Child Aid Gambia team assisted the community in cementing the pipelines in place and erecting the tap and drainage system for the water to flow from.
A community empowered
The community took responsibility for their own labour, following our instructions that were being upheld by our Project Manager, Alex Ngum. One of our main concerns was ensuring that the aid we were providing would be long-term and sustainable, allowing the community to have a sense of independence and ownership over the completion of the project. In working on the water pipeline themselves, the men and women of Ndangan felt empowered by their own positive change, in the knowledge that they were contributing to the future safety and health of their children.
Once the pipeline was completed, we held an inauguration ceremony for the community to celebrate their achievement. Our UK and Gambian team, as well as the Mayor were in attendance, and the children of Ndangan entertained with traditional song and dance. Representatives of the community gave speeches to explain how much this pipeline meant to them – not only as a source of clean, safe drinking water for the children, but also as a sign of Ndangan’s strength and spirit to take their first steps out of poverty.
With a single pipeline, the people of Ndangan saved their children from deadly disease. The success of this project is proof that with the right support, Gambian communities can empower themselves and release future generations from preventable suffering.
What next for Ndangan?
Today, the Ndangan water pipeline is used by the entire community. There has already been a significant decrease in the cases of seasonal malaria and diarrhoeal diseases among the children, and they feel healthier and happier. The families of Ndangan pay their water bills as a group, and have control and independence over the pipeline’s maintenance. The children of Ndangan no longer have to fear the water they drink.
Child Aid Gambia continues to provide life-changing aid and support to the families of Ndangan. We need your help to continue – Ndangan is still an impoverished community, with the children needing significant support to remain in school and stay healthy. Visit the Ndangan page to find out more about this community, and how you can help these children moving forward.
There are hundreds more communities like Ndangan in The Gambia, praying for access to safe and clean drinking water. Thousands of Gambian children’s lives are still at risk from preventable disease. Your donations will help us to keep looking for more water projects like this one, to provide lifesaving aid to children across the country.