There are many problems in the developing world that demand intricate, delicate and complex answers.
Then there are issues – serious, life changing, even life taking issues – which require breathtakingly simple solutions and the money to make them happen.
Sanitation is most definitely in the second category. Worldwide diarrhoea is responsible for the deaths of more children than AIDS, malaria and measles combined, claiming 2,000 young lives every single day.
But the way to stop this appallingly preventable loss of life is one that we are all familiar with and take for granted to the extent that we are almost blind to the fact that we enjoy it – access to clean water.
On my recent visit to Uganda, a country where 28% of people don’t have access to safe drinking water and 66% don’t have access to improved sanitation, I saw what can be achieved.
Last Sport Relief was the most successful ever, raising over £67 million pounds, and to show support for the generosity of the British public, the UK Government matched some of the money raised so that twice as many people can benefit from improved conditions in urban slums across Africa.
This cash is already at work in the Ugandan capital of Kampala, and within days of it being spent it is changing the lives of countless children by providing them with the sanitation they need to avoid the scourge of diarrhoea.
Using this money the charity WaterAid has transformed the situation at Kasasa Primary School for instance and are set to do the same at scores more like it across Uganda.
With 400 pupils coming through the gates every day, Kasasa is a bustling place. But until recently it had to rely on a pair of filthy and basic toilets to cater for everyone and only had access to a contaminated water source. Not surprisingly diarrhoea was rampant with children constantly infecting and reinfecting themselves, being frequently hospitalised and missing huge portions of an education which represents their only chance of escaping the poverty trap.
One of the girls I spoke to, 11-year-old Hanifa Nakibwka told me how she was often so thirsty that she was forced to drink unboiled water from a pipe she knew would make her ill.
Each day after she had succumbed she would be hit by a severe bout of diarrhoea and would miss days of school.
“I would know I was going to be ill but when it is so hot I just needed to drink and if I didn’t have enough money to buy clean water I had to drink what I could.
“Every time the stomach cramps would come and I’d fall very ill. But what could I do, I had no choice?”
Now Hanifa and children like her across Kampala do have a choice. Thanks to cash raised by Sport Relief and support from the UK Government, the filthy old toilet block has been replaced with a brand new one with enough facilities for all of the kids so that they can be kept clean and working.
Once that project was completed, a giant tank to harvest rain water from the corrugated iron roofs on the classrooms was built. The 15,000 litre giant can keep them all well supplied and means the filthy water they were forced to used before is a thing of the past.
What’s more with these in place the pupils are taught good practices and hand washing techniques – they even sing a sanitation anthem every morning!
These two tangible measures of toilets and a water tank are simplicity itself, yet will deliver long-term, sustainable change that will not only help to transform lives, but will increase school attendance and help educate a generation.
Thanks to the generosity of the general public and support from the UK Government, money is already changing the lives of people in Africa. Visit http://www.comicrelief.com or https://www.facebook.com/ukdfid for more details.