Clean water and sanitation

Providing washrooms, handwashing stations and education for Compassion-assisted children and families in Rwanda

Water & SanitationWater & Sanitation
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The Need

Clean water and proper sanitation are basic human needs that impact a child’s quality of life and overall well-being in a profound way. But many children growing up in Rwanda are living in extreme poverty and still lack access to these essential services. The consequences are dire.

UNICEF estimates that only 57 per cent of Rwandans can access safe drinking water within 30 minutes of their home. Children are often required to help their families collect water each day, which keeps them out of school. This disproportionately impacts girls, who are often expected to take on most household tasks. Even if water is available near the home, it is often not safe to drink. When children drink contaminated water, they risk severe illness and even death from waterborne diseases like cholera and typhoid. Furthermore, only 64 per cent of the population has access to sanitation services at home. Just 5 per cent of households have a place for family members to wash their hands with soap. Children who live in these unsanitary conditions often miss school due to frequent illness, hindering their academic performance and putting them at high risk of dropping out entirely.

In March 2021, Compassion Rwanda conducted a survey in the Rwamagana area of churches to determine how many beneficiaries were still living without access to safe water and sanitation. Out of 3,020 households, 113 did not have toilets at home. These families were either sharing a toilet with a neighbour or had been relieving themselves outdoors. One-hundred twenty-five of the households had toilets at home, but they were in very poor condition. The desperate conditions have had a profound impact on children’s health. In fact, in 2021 alone, 40.98 per cent of Compassion-assisted beneficiaries in Rwamagana were diagnosed with a skin infection, 28.29 per cent had suffered a diarrheal disease, 20.98 per cent had intestinal parasites and 9.76 per cent were malnourished. These numbers do not take into account children’s siblings or parents, who frequently suffer the same conditions. With so many children falling sick and missing school, our partners in Rwamagana knew that something had to change. Without help, children’s goals and dreams—and their very lives—were on the line.

Our Response

The main goal of this intervention was to decrease the instances of hygiene-related illnesses among Compassion-assisted beneficiaries and their families from 13 churches in the Rwamagana area. To achieve this, churches developed three distinct but complementary strategies tailored to the needs of their communities. The first objective was to construct new washrooms for 120 families who did not have a functional toilet at home. The second strategy involved installing water storage tanks and hand washing stations at four churches and connecting a fifth church to a clean water source through pipelines. Finally, churches wanted to run hygiene and sanitation workshops to educate children and caregivers on the vital importance of good personal hygiene and safe water use.

With your generous support, this initiative was officially launched in January 2022. Kick-off planning meetings were held with centre staff and church leaders to clarify responsibilities and expectations, set up an intervention timeline and review budgets. A Compassion health specialist and the local partnership facilitator then met with centre staff and a small number of caregivers who had been designated as community leaders for this initiative.

Between April and May 2022, churches ran a series of hygiene workshops for children, caregivers, church staff and pastors. Workshops for adults and children were run separately so that learning materials could be tailored to each age group. In May, churches purchased building materials for 120 families receiving new toilets, including doors, iron sheets for roofing, cement and rebar, galvanized wire, nails and sand. The materials were distributed to beneficiary families at the beginning of June, and caregivers contributed their labour to make mud bricks, supply wood, dig septic pits, supply sand and stones and to paint the facilities. By the end of August, all 120 families had completed building the new toilets on their properties.

In June 2022, four churches purchased and installed water storage tanks on their properties. A fifth church was connected to piped water, and public access points were installed. Throughout this intervention, church staff and committee members closely monitored each benefiting family to offer support where needed and ensure that parents and children were putting their new knowledge into practice.


Preparatory meetings: Churches formed committees that included staff members and caregiver representatives to oversee the implementation of this initiative. Mobilization meetings were also held for caregivers of families receiving materials for the new toilets.

Hygiene workshops: Churches held a series of hygiene and sanitation workshops for caregivers, children and centre staff.

New toilets: A total of 120 families received building materials to construct new pit latrine washrooms at their homes. Pit latrines consist of a hole in the ground, either unlined or lined with reinforcing material such as bricks or concrete rings; a squatting slab; and a superstructure to provide privacy.

Local support: Caregivers dug pit latrines and made bricks, among other labour tasks as their contribution to the intervention. Families that didn’t have any able family members were fully supported by community members and caregiver associations.

Water storage tanks: Four churches installed rainwater harvesting tanks at their buildings, which included constructing the concrete base, installing the gutter system and mounting and installing the storage tanks. These churches now have a sustainable source of clean water that is easily accessible to the community.

Pipeline connection: We were able to connect one church with clean water via pipeline. This process included determining a safe water source, digging trenches and installing the pipes. A special inauguration ceremony with the district mayor was held to celebrate the momentous leap forward!

Your Gift Provides...

• Piped water connection for one frontline church partner
• Rain harvesting water storage tanks for four church partners
• New toilets and bathrooms for 120 vulnerable households from 13 churches
○ Building materials (doors, iron sheets for roofing, cement and rebar, galvanized wire, nails and sand)
• Hygiene and sanitation training for centre staff, pastors, children and caregivers from 13 churches
• Monitoring and follow-up

ReportA message from those your gift helped

Before this toilet and bathroom intervention, we actually had no toilet and every family member improvised on how to answer the call of nature. My siblings and I would dig small pits behind our house at night, and after relieving ourselves we would cover them. During the day we would use the school toilet, and during holidays we would settle it behind our home latrine. We didn’t know how and when this challenge would end, but our God knew that our help was on the way through this intervention. Furthermore, we did not have a bathroom, and most of the days we showered “passport” (washing your head, face, arms and armpits and legs) because “passport” style never required one to remove clothes. When we needed to shower the whole body, we would do it on a warm night behind our house. In brief, our lifestyle was cumbersome.

After the completion of this intervention, the life of my family has incredibly changed. We are proud to have a standard and safe toilet and bathroom facility in our community. Today, every family member can freely use the bathroom anytime he or she wants. Our new toilet and bathroom facility is closed in and cemented, which makes it safe and easy to clean. This has encouraged us to shower and visit the toilet whenever one feels like it, which wasn’t the case before.

This intervention will mean improved personal hygiene. It also means that my family will never go back to a life of having no toilet or bathroom. In fact, this intervention has given hope for a better family house we’re believing God for. The courage and the faith to undertake this responsibility is drawn from this intervention. Now, I see a bright future for my family.

The lessons learned from this intervention are that God can bless anyone. He is the answer to any disturbing issues. This intervention has increased my faith and I have learned to pray for others who need to be supported. Secondly, the centre supported me, but my family members were also fully engaged throughout the implementation, which taught me that I also have a role to play in solving my day-to-day problems. That has changed my mindset, and now I have learned that we have enough potential and capacity to contribute to the solutions of our problems. The last thing I have learned is that I have to help other people as well, as I have been helped by others so that I could finish the construction activities.

My family and I appreciate the love and the financial support made available to us. May God continue to bless every giver who supported this intervention.

Kevine, sister of a Compassion-assisted child at RW0153

ReportThank you for your generosity

Worldwide, Compassion’s WaSH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) initiatives support the health and holistic development of thousands of vulnerable children and their families. By providing children with access to safe water, improved sanitation and life-saving knowledge, we can effectively halt many preventable diseases in their tracks—and change the future of entire communities. Thanks to your generous financial support and partnership in prayer, we have been able to implement these impactful changes in Rwamagana, Rwanda, through new toilets, clean water access at churches and hygiene training.

Thanks to you, 3,231 children and 5,034 caregivers in Rwamagana attended hygiene and sanitation workshops, where they learned how to protect themselves and others from communicable illnesses by maintaining good hygiene habits like regular hand washing. Your gift also equipped church staff and leaders with this vital knowledge, so they can help families continue implementing these important practices.

Your gift enabled us to provide building materials for 120 families so they could construct new, clean toilets at home. Children no longer have to be embarrassed by their living conditions or worry about how they look or smell when they go to school. Our partners have already noticed an encouraging drop in hygiene-related illnesses and are expecting to see the dramatic change continue to unfold in the coming months.

Finally, your support provided rainwater harvesting tanks at four churches, as well as a pipeline connection to the national water grid for a fifth church. Now, families have easy access to clean, safe water they can use for drinking, cooking and cleaning at home. Churches don’t have to spend large portions of their budget purchasing water for centre days and instead can allocate these much-needed resources to other vital areas of their programming.

For communities in need, safe water and sanitation can truly change everything. Because of you, hope is on the horizon for thousands of children and families in Rwamagana, Rwanda. Thank you for reaching out with Christ’s love and compassion!

ReportA message from a centre director

Due to implementation of this intervention, the hygiene conditions of the benefiting households improved, and the incidences of poor hygiene–related diseases will reduce significantly. Beneficiaries now have bathroom facilities, enabling them to have a bath at least every evening, which was not the case before the implementation of this intervention. It’s a common tendency of the rural population to shower only when there’s a big occasion in the community or at church. The rest of the days they wash their face, hands and legs, and that’s all. Open defecation also has been a community challenge. Many supported children and youth have had their share of this challenge, especially when it comes to under-nutrition and stunting, which potentially has had negative effects on their cognitive development. Fecal contamination of the environment and poor hygiene practices are responsible for the absenteeism of individual children and youth from month to month, and we believe that this intervention is already changing the trend.

This WaSH intervention has benefited the church and community in general because the beneficiaries are members of these institutions. Therefore, the number of people without standard toilets and bathrooms plus the number of households living with domestic animals, has decreased in our church and the community in general.

This intervention increased my ability to identify and utilize available local resources in the community where our centre is located. The success of this intervention has built my confidence to emphasize God’s faithfulness based on the tangible proof. The strengthened collaboration and partnership between the church, Compassion and local government compels me to advocate for more vulnerable families.

The church leadership and centre staff members would like to thank those who provided the financial support for this intervention. The centre is very grateful for the partnership with Compassion International. Our supported families recognize and appreciate your interventions in different aspects of life. We wish you long life and vitality.

Ildephonse, centre director at RW0153