Children spin for fresh water in Mozambique

Equipment designed to take the hard work out of pumping fresh water to the surface is being installed in playgrounds all over Mozambique.

Roundabouts that pump up the water from boreholes into storage tanks as they spin are to be introduced at schools in 30 rural communities, while another 30 traditional hand-pumps will be set-up elsewhere in the country.

The scheme is expected to benefit some 40,000 children and has been jointly funded by the UN World Food Programme (WFP), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Dutch courier company TNT, which has donated US$444,000 to the project.

“This children’s roundabout is a really unique and innovative solution to solve the water problems faced by rural areas,” said Hennie Wesseling, TNT director.

“It is wonderful to see the children having so much fun while at the same time bringing an essential service to the community.”

Schemes like this are a welcome step towards the UN’s Millennium Development Goal on halving the proportion of people in the developing world without access to clean drinking water by 2015.

Safe water can also help meet the MDGs on child mortality, combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases and promoting gender equality.

But while the carousels will help thousands, NGOs argue there is still a need for a wider solution that veers away from the privatisation model.

Peter Hardstaff, head of policy at the World Development Movement said: “The push for water privatisation as a solution to the water crisis is failing poor countries, we urgently need a new strategy.”

“The provision of clean water is crucial to a number of the MDGs.

“In country after country water privatisation has failed to provide either the investment promised or has led to price rises which force the poor to use other dirty water sources.

“Despite this it is still being forced on poor countries as a condition of debt relief and backed by tens of millions of pounds of UK taxpayers money spent on dubious advice and PR from free-market business consultants.”

WDM claims its opposition to privatisation is based on economics, not ideology.

Mr Hardstaff pointed to the recent high profile collapse of a flagship water privatisation in Tanzania as typical of water privatisation being forced on a developing country and private sector failing to deliver the investment necessary.

According to the Tanzanian government, the private water company, City Water, delivered under half the required investment of US$8.5 million during the first two years of operation.

Privatisation was a condition of Tanzania receiving debt relief from the IMF and World Bank and was supported by a PR campaign (including a privatisation pop song) paid for by £270,000 of UK aid money (see related story).

By Sam Bond

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