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Alphonsine has lived in Lubiriha, North Kivu, for her entire life. She has seen the town grow and change over the years, but one thing has always stayed the same. Alphonsine has never had access to water that is safe to drink.

“We have always had water here, but it isn’t safe water,” she says. “I have six children, and one of them is always sick. My youngest has had malaria and diarrhoea, and she is malnourished.”

Alphonsine stands in front of the Medair water point close to her home in Lubiriha © Medair / Lucy Bamforth

In Lubiriha, people collect rainwater or walk, sometimes for hours, to collect water from a river. Waterborne diseases spread quickly here. Cholera outbreaks occur almost every year.

In 2015, Medair was providing health support to a clinic in Lubiriha when a particularly virulent outbreak of cholera struck. Once the outbreak was controlled, Medair and UNICEF worked together to find a long-term solution to the cholera problem for the community. The first step was to meet with community members and ask for their advice about where to build the water points. Once we had their input, we began drilling.

Our aim was to provide 6,000 people with safe water  ̶  but then we started drilling in a neighbourhood called Congo Yasika.

"Congo Yasika was a very big surprise. The source of water underground could supply a lot more water than we thought." Thomas Simon, Medair relief worker

How much water? Enough to fill a water tower, supply an entire network of tap stands, and provide 4,000 additional people with safe water.

We were excited at the prospect. Building an entire water network would be one of the most ambitious water projects we had ever undertaken – one we wanted to share with the community.

“Medair asked the people to participate,” says community leader Kakule Sikuli. “We paid for the wood, we chose the water points, and we dug the trenches. We feel like we are a part of the project.”

After six months of work, the water tower and network are now fully operational.

Ten thousand people in Lubiriha – almost twice as many as we had hoped for –have access to water that is close to their homes and safe to drink.

"I think we can agree that this is a big success. We have succeeded in reducing the scourge of cholera, which every year has affected women, children-the entire population of Lubiriha." Chinook Terrier, UNICEF representative

That safe water has already made a huge difference to Alphonsine. “When we started taking the water from the water point Medair installed, everything got better,” she says.  “My youngest child is healthy now. All of my children are.”

The completed water tower in Lubiriha, North Kivu. The solar panels next to the tower provide the energy needed to pump the water from the underground source into the water tanks.

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Medair’s projects in DR Congo are supported by the US Agency for International Development, Medicor Foundation (LI), Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Swiss Solidarity, United Nations Population Fund, European Commission, and generous private supporters from around the world.