105% of $75,000 goal
You know from our holistic model that funding access to clean water, healthcare, waste disposal, and behavior change is all necessary to improve the health of a population. As scientists, we typically measure public health through things like maternal mortality, life expectancy, and reduction in diarrhea. This year, however, we learned that our interventions had an impact that went beyond public health metrics.
Before the completion of our borehole wells, which provide clean water from a tap, villagers had to obtain water from an open well with a rope and bucket. Not only was this water often contaminated and unsafe for drinking, but many fights would erupt among women queuing in front of the open well about using the rope, a system that takes a long time and would delay their ability to accomplish other domestic tasks. This was such a common occurrence that it became a part of village lore, and one village even created a theatrical performance reliving these arguments.
But since the borehole well was finished, women shared that there is finally harmony in their villages. There is no need for a long queue where women tussle with one another for priority, because water can now be accessed from the tap easily and efficiently. And since they don’t have to travel long distances for water, they told us they are able to spend this “extra time” simply resting - something that their daily lives did not permit until now.
While many villagers shared their relief that their children are experiencing much less diarrhea and other similar illnesses, this made us realize that the borehole wells did much more than just bring clean water; they brought harmony, too.
When you support SolHealth, you are not just providing access to clean water,
you are helping foster harmony.
We also met several of the community health nurses that your funding helped sponsor in their training. Scattered across rural postings, in many communities they essentially function as doctors and are the backbone of the health infrastructure. One nurse we spoke to takes care of 200 patients a week on average. The spectrum of medical care that they practice is also extremely broad, with nurses doing everything from delivering children to performing cataract operations.
Many shared that without this sponsorship, they would not have been able to afford the training themselves, as such education is only accessible to more affluent families and the state offers no support. Countless times we heard nurses expressing great pride in their ability to give back to the community and serve their people. One nurse shared that his little brother has asthma and this inspired him to become a medical practitioner.
When you support SolHealth, you are not just providing access to education,
you are helping build self-confidence.
Lastly, this year we piloted the construction of five composting latrines – the first of their kind in these communities. In all too many villages, men and women have no other option but to find a secluded spot just outside of the village and use that as an open-air toilet. This leads to contamination of water and crops, and causes illnesses and even deaths that are entirely preventable.
Absent a local sewage system or waste treatment facility, we built five compostable latrines in five villages. These latrines are enclosed, offering privacy and preventing waste from contaminating crops and water. The composted waste can also be sold as fertilizer, ensuring it will not be dumped into the river and further contaminate the community’s water source.
This pilot was not without its challenges. Because composting latrines have never been built before in these communities, contractors had a difficult time with the blueprints and many iterations had to be tested before one was finally completed. There is also a strong cultural taboo and reluctance to use human waste as fertilizer for fruits and vegetables.
To address this, we are working with the local communities on alternative ways of using the compost, such as selling it as fertilizer to vendors outside the community, or disposing it as clean compost - which is basically like soil - on land nearby. With further exposure and training on this new concept, the goal is for the community to eventually use the compost as fertilizer which would be economically advantageous.
While we still have much work to do in training the villagers to use the latrines properly, many village women have already expressed their support for latrines due to the protection they offer against sexual assault. Because the latrines are centrally located in the village (as opposed to an isolated field), and because they are enclosed and offer privacy, local women are embracing them as a source of protection and are looking forward to being able to do something many of us take for granted – using the restroom without fear.
When you support SolHealth, you are not just building bathrooms,
you are ensuring safety.
The generosity of people like you make these life-changing results possible, and we hope you will consider making a gift today. With your renewed support, we can continue this important project in The Gambia and bring harmony, self-confidence, and safety to more families.
SolHealth was founded in 2016 by Dr. David Rutstein, former Acting Deputy Surgeon General of the United States.
His goal was to leverage his decades of expertise, and that of his extensive network, into a small, focused organization working to promote health and prevent disease, one population at a time.
As a global organization, SolHealth maintains a core Global Board of Directors, in addition to a local board in the country where we are operating at the time.
SolHealth partners with local stakeholders to help deliver critical public health interventions to their populations. From the training of community health workers to the construction of clean water wells, our only agenda is to respond to the most pressing needs of the communities we serve.