From baseline studies we have conducted over the years we have noted that from their need assessment data potable water rank highest 90% of the time. This need prioritization lends itself to the necessity for the survival of a people.
Statistics show rural community access to safe drinking water in Cameroon stands at 47% in 2006 (Sophie Winters 2015). However from information we have gathered over the years we observe that in the south west region of Cameroon 81% of villages with populations less than 4,000 lack access to safe drinking water (CED/FAHP 2017). To reduce disease transmission through contact, schools emphasize hand washing routine both in school and at home. The success rate with this approach is however marginal because the water used for hand washing itself is usually not clean enough. The sources are usually from open wells, running stream where all other cleaning activities take place. Rain water considered cleanest is normally not available in the dry season. This is really a problem for women particularly young girls who need personal hygiene routines quite often.
In Cameroon as in many other rural communities around the world settlement decision is usually determined by a number of factors. High up in the list of factors are:
- Availability of water sources
- Soil fertility
- Communication pathways
- Away from flood paths
- Away from areas prone to landslide
Rural communities now especially in the South West Region of Cameroon are growing in an exponential rate particularly because of its soil fertility that attracts farming families countrywide. The large population influx is now becoming a threat to health as the available water resource is being stretch beyond its limits. This situation leads to a further decrease in sanitation and hygiene which is a long standing problem in the communities in general.
The sanitation and hygiene situation in rural communities is very low in the SW region. The nearby bushes serve as household toilets (open defecation areas). While domesticated animals roaming freely to these bushes, effective disease control is hardly achieved.
The average household family size of new settlers is between 6 and 8 depending on the community. These families come with a package of basic needs of water, health care, schools etc. which the communities cannot provide. Furthermore the sanitation and hygiene condition is further compounded with an increase of poor handling of household garbage disposal. The settlement communities are thus exposed to a regular increase in new strains of bacteria from other communities which they have little ability to manage. The vicious cycle of poverty continues as a sick population spends it meager income on treatment of diseases than investing in gainful economic activities.
For the above singular reason of a further drop in sanitation and hygiene the communities must now start thinking ahead if they want their communities to remain healthy.
In conducting village development plans it is apparent that rural communities need assistance in prioritizing their development goals. In village participatory meetings to develop proposal for Village Development Plans (VDP) we observe that lack of knowledge in the intertwining nature of the different factors that ensure proper development patterns mislead village communities to make inappropriate decision on investment. However rural communities demonstrate eagerness to learn and be guided on prioritizing their needs rather than wants to make the right investment decisions.
It should be noted also that some communities have been surprised with government projects implementation with little or no community involvement. A major fail factor.