Dissin, Burkina Faso (Health)

Background

Burkina Faso, located in West Africa, is one of the poorest countries in the world. At present, more than 80% of its population is engaged in subsistence agriculture, and the country has a literacy rate among men of 30%, and 9% among women (more information).

EWB-UMCP has been partnering with the small town of Dissin, located in the South-West region of Burkina Faso, since 2007. A graduate student from Burkina whose family still lives in Dissin approached EWB-UMCP with the idea for a solar project here. Twenty-three villages surround Dissin along dusty red dirt roads that radiate out from the city center. Malnutrition, dys-entery, malaria and respir-atory infections are the most common health problems.   The priests at the mission and nuns who run a women’s educational center have been our hosts and partners in providing the community of Dissin with sustainable engineering solutions for their water and energy needs.

The Need

The rural villages of Dissin, Burkina Faso rely heavily on four government-funded medical centers located within their communities. Unlike the city center, the small size and relative isolation of these individual villages prevents them from receiving electricity from the already limited national electric grid. Nurses at the clinics rely upon villagers to help them carry water to the clinics each morning where it is stored in rusted metal tanks. Likewise, in the past, nurses often handled nighttime births by candle or flashlight out of necessity. Finally, unsanitary water handling and storage conditions leave water bacterially contaminated by the time it reaches clinic patients.

EWB-UMCP Response

Dissin Group PhotoIn August 2009, an EWB-UMCP assessment team first visited the four rural medical centers to conduct a thorough evaluation of their energy, water and sanitation needs. EWB spent the fall 2009 semester prototyping and finalizing solar lighting design to meet the clinic energy needs. Likewise, students researched the design of a water pumping system for one of the medical centers, as well as developing and testing water filtration devices. Six students traveled in January 2010 to install solar-powered fluorescent lights in the maternity suites and consultation rooms at each of the four clinics around Dissin.

Students, nurses, and villagers worked together to mount solar panels on the clinic roofs, to install wiring in the clinics, and to ground the system to meet U.S. quality standards. In addition, the team performed more water testing to measure seasonal variations of water quality. Throughout the capital in Ouagadougou to the villages around Dissin, the team scouted for high-quality local materials to ensure future project success. The team also made improvements to the school lighting and battery recharging systems that were installed in the villages by EWB-UMCP in January 2008 and 2009.  Our solar knowledge has rubbed off on our friend Eric Kussele, a local electrician who helps our community maintain their solar systems. He has financed and designed a mobile version of our recharge centers from our previous project in Dissin.

The team traveled on a second assessment trip in August 2010 to solidify the details of the water pumping design developed during the previous year. Also, the team met with local engineers and U.S. Embassy officials to further develop the chapter’s in-country presence. Finally, the team signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the doctor who oversees the clinics in order to lay out the terms of both parties’ commitment to a successful project.

In January 2012, EWB-UMCP students fully implemented the water pumping and disinfection system in the most highly trafficked medical clinic at Donne. The system will provide clean, running water to two of the clinic buildings, through a solar powered mechanical pump in their current well and a continuous slow sand filter.  In addition to providing engineering expertise to the clinic for the maintenance of the water distribution system, the team worked with the nurses to facilitate knowledge transfer in the construction, use, and maintenance of slow sand filters for clean water in the entire community.

In August 2012, a team returned to Dissin to monitor all of the projects EWB-UMCP had installed to date.  The findings from this trip were used to better understand the community’s needs and abilities with the goal of ensuring future EWB projects succeed to the highest degree possible. In January 2013, the team returned to Dissin in order to continue monitoring their projects and begin the plans for starting a new project. After the trip, the team found that they were unable to find a suitable project to work with the community.