Diseases related to inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene are a huge burden in developing countries. It is estimated that 88% of diarrhoeal disease is caused by unsafe water supply, and inadequate sanitation and hygiene (WHO, 2004). Around 35% of people in rural areas lack access to safe water and access to adequate sanitation is even lower at 40%.  Engineers Without Borders UK has been working to give 40,000 Rwandan students and their teachers access to clean water and decent toilets in their school.

Rwanda is one of Africa’s smallest and most densely populated countries. Although Rwanda’s shown inspiring signs of development since the 1990s, nearly two in three people live in poverty; with millions still lacking safe water access.

School children in Rwanda are significantly affected by this state of affairs. Worldwide 443 million school days are lost each year due to water-related diseases (The Water Project). Sometimes, girls and female teachers are further affected because the lack of sanitary facilities means that they cannot attend school during menstruation (WHO). Even more shockingly over 600 children dying every year from preventable diarrhoeal diseases caused by poor water and sanitation (WaterAid).

In 2014, two Engineers Without Borders UK volunteers, Ruth and Steven, spent three months working with our partner Health Poverty Action. Together they managed the construction of ecosan toilets in rural Rwandan community schools. The ecosan system provides school a hygienic and economic method to convert human waste into nutrients to be returned to the soil.

The project has improved the access to sanitation facilities for over 4000 local school children. These children can now have full access to education with the reduced effects of poor health.

The benefits stretch further to the wider community as local farmers can use the products of the ecosan system to return to the land to increase crop yields and boost local economy.

Following the work of our volunteers, local staff of Health Poverty Action are able to follow Ruth’s ‘Construction Guide’ to replicate the ecosan toilet design and construction at other sites.

In 2015, Engineers Without Borders volunteers worked a staggering 32,054 hours on international projects, such as this one. With your help we are determined to help everyone everywhere have access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene.