You can’t solve a problem if you don’t know what exactly your problem is. For this reason ‘baseline data’, or information about your problem before you start fixing it, is key. In our reality of limited financial and human resources, however, collecting baseline data presents logistical and ethical dilemmas for small organizations like CWS. Quantitatively evaluating the effects of drinking dirty water on community health is extremely complicated and often impossible, even with unlimited resources. And our resources are not unlimited. Every dollar we spend doing surveys on diarrheal incidence, for example, is a dollar NOT going towards a new center or monitoring. So we don’t do them.
Just because it isn’t feasible for CWS to collect baseline data before partnering with a community does not mean we’ve given up on the approach! Instead, we make use of the resources already available. One such resource is a survey done in 2007 jointly by the Government of Ghana and UNICEF. This “Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey” was conducted in 2007 to help anchor future health and education projects, (like ours)!
Some statistics about Northern Region jumped out at me while I was flipping through the pages (SADLY I’ve yet to find a copy online). I’ll share them here, to illustrate the scope of the problem we are dealing with:
- 46% of the rural population relies on “unimproved water sources” for their drinking water. Unimproved sources include the dugouts and dams that we work with, as well as sources like hand-dug wells, rivers, etc.
- 89% of those responsible for fetching water are women, sometimes with the help of children.
- 1/4 of children under five were reported to have suffered from diarrhea in the 2 weeks before the survey.
These water-related survey results are intimately linked to some of the broader survey findings. These include the results that:
- The mortality rate for children under 5 is high: there were on average 135 deaths per 1,000 live births a year in the 10 years leading up to this study (though this rate has shown steady improvement).
- 30% of children are more than two standard deviations below their weight class.
- 9.5% of rural women are literate.
Of course, these statistics are only a small (and gloomy) piece of the larger, complex and vibrant picture that is life in rural Northern Region. Still, they are important indicators of the magnitude of the problem at hand. Luckily CWS has found hard-working partners like Sanatu of Chani (below), who will contribute something to survey results next time around.