It has been just over a year since the outbreak of coronavirus was declared a pandemic. During that time the spread of COVID-19 has led to a global crisis causing devastation and disruption to people’s lives all around the world.

Analysis by the World Bank warns that COVID-19 pushed an additional 88 million people into extreme poverty in 2020 – and that figure is just a baseline. In a worst-case scenario, they report that this figure could be as high as 115 million.

In September last year we spoke about global school closures affecting some 1.5 billion students, severely impacting on children’s education, the effects of which are likely to be felt for decades to come. 

There are also concerns that the prolonged school closures may contribute to widening the gender gap, as many girls are expected to take on domestic duties at home. UNESCO have projected that 11 million girls might never return to their studies following the pandemic. 

COVID-19 is also expected to exacerbate already worrying trends in increasing global food insecurity. The UN reported that this year, one in 33 people will need aid to meet basic needs like food, water and sanitation: an increase of 40% from 2020. 

And whilst the implementation of a national vaccine programme holds the promise of life returning to some sense of normality here in the UK, the rollout of vaccines in regions across Africa is expected to lag behind. 

But despite all of these current challenges, sand dam projects are providing many rural dryland communities with hope for the future.

A sand dam is a concrete wall built across a sandy riverbed that can capture up to 40 million litres of water, replenishing every rainy season. That water is stored safe from disease and evaporation within the sand. It’s easily extractable via pipework connected to hand-pumps and taps, with one sand dam providing enough year-round water for over 1,000 people. Watch how sand dams work here:


By ensuring a dependable supply of clean water, sand dams help keep communities safe as they can use the water to practice regular hand hygiene – one of the most effective methods of preventing the spread of infections like COVID-19. They also reduce the incidence of waterborne diseases, as communities no longer have to drink dirty water. 

Built close to people’s homes, sand dams save women and children, who often carry the burden of fetching water, precious hours each day. Women can use that time to earn a living, and children can spend more time at school – particularly important now following the prolonged school closures of last year. 

The increased availability of water also means farmers can irrigate their land. And when combined with the use of drought-resistant crops and trees, farmers can harvest produce throughout the year, providing a reliable source of income as they can sell the surplus at their local market. 

Below, you can hear from Peninah Mutisya, Treasurer of Ngiluni self-help group (SHG) in southeast Kenya, who spoke about the suffering endured as a result of living without adequate water access in the community.

“During the drought seasons, having water in the house can be a matter of life and death. My daughter and I have to leave the house and go looking for water as early as 3am, and only return once our search has been successful... I have suffered all my life for lack of water. I have borne the pain of offering my children dirty and contaminated water to quench their thirst for years, and as a mother, this is a very painful thing to have to do.”

Peninah Mutisya, Treasurer of Ngiluni self-help group, southeast Kenya.

Ngiluni SHG hope to build a sand dam later this year, the prospect of which is bringing much hope for the community.

But we need your help so that we can support more dryland community members like Peninah to gain access to clean water, and in turn build a brighter future for themselves. Here is just an example of how your support could help:

  • £15 could provide a dryland farmer with drought-tolerant seeds, to grow a reliable source of fresh food for their children

  • £30 could supply a community with a rake, gardening fork, shovel and watering cans, to plant trees for fruit, fuel and fodder

  • £60 could provide a community with a roll of barbed wire, to reinforce and strengthen their sand dam during construction

Last year, despite the additional challenges brought about by the pandemic, we continued to make great strides in enabling more communities to gain access to clean, safe water, and we remain determined to do all that we can to support more families living in drylands to gain the benefits of sand dam projects.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Any donation you are able to make today really will make a lasting difference to people’s lives. 

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