A newly-installed water purifier marks the latest progress in transforming the lives of 5,300 Ugandan villagers on the banks of Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake.
Providing sustainable clean water is the first stage of bold planning by the Peaceful Island Children’s Center (PICC), a non-profit that works with local leaders to improve conditions among communities already suffering among the highest human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) rates on earth.
Lake Victoria comprises nearly 3,000 islands and spans 26,555 square miles; it is about half the size of Florida. Commercial fishing sustains its residents and ancillary businesses. But scientists say Lake Victoria is dangerously polluted; human waste, sewage, and industrial and farm run-off pose a tremendous risk to already-struggling people. Before the water system was constructed on Asizi Island in March, children and adolescents spent hours daily hauling jugs of water from the lakefront, often missing school while performing this job. Sometimes the islanders used old t-shirts to filter the toxic water.
“Research tells us that access to clean water is by far the greatest public health need in these remote fishing communities,” said Dr. Wayne C. Koff, Ph.D., Chairman of PICC, which he co-founded with his wife, Eileen. The first water purifier was built by PICC in early 2020 in the lakefront village of Buwunga. A submersible pump in the lake, powered by solar panels, pumps the water to a treatment station where it is filtered, chlorinated, and distributed to taps throughout the village.
Dr. Wayne Koff first encountered the remote villages while researching HIV rates, which are four to five times higher than the rest of Africa. By 2017, local groups working with PICC organized a plan to train locals as educators and health providers – and to attract non-profit funding.
Michelson Philanthropies donated $25,000 toward the water project on Nsazi Island, and other donors matched it. Local residents worked on the project and have been trained to maintain and operate the pump system.