A mere three days after arrival, I feel like I have quickly fallen into step with life here.
After a luxurious first night out at Russell’s, an open air restaurant/bar, eating and watching Wimbledon, the real work began on Monday.
With steady persistence we were finally able to secure all the official Mozambican rubber stamps that we needed to gain governmental blessing to begin our work in Maringanha on the water wells. Walking around town that first day I quickly learned that Pemba is a small beautiful place but fairly impoverished. The red dirt roads along the white sandy beaches are littered with dozens of children in various levels of school clothing with bright inquiring eyes. They curiously stare as I follow Kathleen and Shyam who comfortably navigate the streets and the locals in Portuguese and Macua as they point out everything from the local market, to the hospital, to the police station meeting all the friends they’ve made along the way.
It was unclear to me just how the majority of the people that I saw around town lived until my first trip to the village that afternoon. There the dirt and rock huts that line the sand roads are peppered with goats and chickens. They freely roam the grounds as children play with makeshift plastic bag and rubber band soccer balls.
Our presence as the band of Kunyas (white people – yes, I am now white), goes more or less undisturbed. The major exception is when we walk by a group of local women, who all ask to be my friend, in particular. To us it is unclear why, while Abdul our translator, seems to think my stature makes them think I could be a child, I remain unconvinced of their desire to adopt a Kunya child.Shyam and I took the evening to test the water samples we had on the Petrifilm to try and quantify E-Coli and Coliform levels – I must say incubating cardboard agar strips on your back while sleeping is just as little fun as the description would indicate.
Nonetheless, today dressed in traditional skirts we arrived in the village to get more water samples and interview as many people as we could find at the wells. Divided into groups we tackled the two wells that showed E-Coli and Coliform contamination to try and understand local water habits.
Using the women’s attraction to both myself and Kathleen we were able to get some clear answers. Women come to collect water 2-5 times a day, 2-3 buckets at a time for the entire family and use it for everything from eating to cooking to washing. Carrying their buckets on their heads they make the trip, which in general for the 1300 or so population of Maringanha is no more than a five minute walk.
Few women make the connection between bouts of ill health and contaminated well water which will be an inherent challenge in promoting our product and the local population’s uptake of the pasteurized water. At home in our “Real World-esque” house over dinner at the kitchen table, we continue to toss around ideas about how to implement an effective case-control study of the pasteurizers to evaluate health – randomly selecting a test group, giving them clean, new and different coloured water buckets and having a local person man the pasteurizer, which would be set up as close to the well as possible, seems like the most feasible idea to date.
Finishing the day with my first dip in the Indian Ocean, I am painfully aware that we have much work to do.
We will return to Maranganha tomorrow and find more women to talk with geared specifically towards diarrhea and health and hopefully start building the pasteurizer on Monday.
Spreading knowledge of the public health risks of dirty water, mixing water used for hygiene and consumption, and creating the appropriate infrastructure to remedy the problem is a lofty challenge but the summer is young still. Also, Drew has mutton chops - please email him and make him shave. Obrigada.
- Alisha (By Shyam, on July 7th, 2009).
- Alisha (By Shyam, on July 7th, 2009).
- Pode traduzir aqui!