Laying the Groundwork for New WASH Programs

Pilot Programs are laying the groundwork to serve more people, more effectively in Bangladesh, India, Malawi, and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)


Lifewater initiated pilot programs in four countries this quarter that will serve thousands with safe water and sanitation in some of the most remote and underserved areas of the world. New programs in India, Bangladesh, Malawi, and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have the potential to expand to serve thousands of people in rural communities over the next two years.

Staff and field trainers are already working with partners to help WASH spread to new communities. Check out this video of a group of trainees in Malawi explain the steps of cleaning a latrine through their own song:

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Our program director, Dr. Pamela Crane, explains that regions within these four countries were chosen based on the need and the availability of local partners to help implement Lifewater’s mWASH strategy. “We look at areas that may not be reached by local groups or other organizations because we have the passion and tools to serve in hard places, but a responsibility to have real, lasting impact. These new pilot programs allow us to open doors and help people while we evaluate the long-term partnerships in the region. We are excited to be serving more people in new regions.”

India: At 65%, India has one of the highest rates of open defecation in rural areas, which accelerates disease transmission among its inhabitants. While 91% of Indians in rural areas have access to improved sources of safe water, only 25% have improved sanitation. The Assam region in eastern India, where Lifewater initiated the pilot program, experiences frequent outbreaks of water-borne disease.

Bangladesh: In Bangladesh, water is plentiful but highly contaminated with bacteria, industrial runoff, and arsenic. In the southern region, Lifewater’s pilot program focuses on bringing community resources together to filter water, making it safe for human consumption, and reduce the reliance on unhealthy sources. Since this region is so unique, the program in Bangladesh focuses on using locally-based solutions and innovation to address ongoing problems sustainably.

Malawi: The subsistence farmers in the central region of Malawi continue to struggle with rampant poverty, child labor, and water-borne disease. This relatively small nation in central Africa is one of the world’s poorest, and almost 92% of Malawians do not have access to improved sanitation facilities, such as latrines. Witchcraft is widely practiced and politically influential, especially in local contexts. Lifewater’s mWASH pilot program confronts these obstacles with improved access to safe water, improved sanitation, and hygiene skills, while offering community members an opportunity to work together productively.

DRC: Violence, displacement, and instability plague the eastern region of the DRC, with a compromised local government and a general hesitation of international organizations to serve in the area. The people of Nebobongo, however, continue to suffer from high rates of preventable, water-borne diseases. Lifewater is working in five schools to help provide a source of safe water and latrines as well as teach students life-saving hygiene and sanitation practices.

In areas like eastern DRC, where violence may lead to the destruction of things like wells and latrines, investments in people’s understanding of WASH are especially important. Lifewater is in a unique position to help, because even when hardware like hand pumps can be destroyed or stolen during periods of unrest, the knowledge of disease prevention tactics like handwashing and latrine construction stay with the people who need them.

The pilot programs will serve thousands of people over the next two years. During that time, Lifewater evaluates what we can do specifically to serve to local communities more effectively. If results warrant the expansion of programs in these regions, Lifewater is poised to serve over 100,000 by the end of the third year.

Bangladesh and India have some of the highest population densities in the world, while the rural areas of Malawi and DRC remain difficult or dangerous to access. This is hope to hard places: seeking out the people living in difficult circumstances and trusting God to use us to love them well.

“We will continue to start new pilot programs over the coming years so that we are ready to serve more people, more effectively as God provides resources,” says CEO Justin Narducci.

During a fundraising campaign this summer, Lifewater supporters gave over $35,000 to begin these programs, with an additional $25,000 given in matching funds. Thank you for helping us reach people in these hard places!

All statistics were taken from the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Program for Water Supply and Sanitation, Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation report (2014). [1. WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Program for Water Supply and Sanitation, Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation (2014), available at]

Lifewater International is a non-profit Christian water development organization dedicated to effectively serving vulnerable children and families by partnering with underserved communities to overcome water poverty. With experience in more than 40 countries since 1977, Lifewater serves people of all faiths, focusing on contextually appropriate water sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) development. For more information, contact Christine Zurbach ( or visit Lifewater International is based in San Luis Obispo, CA.

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