Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 4, 2002
Local group wants water for a parched people
By RENATO GANDIA
WCR Staff Writer
Haunted by the naked children he saw in East Africa, an Edmonton businessman is now planning to come to the rescue of the victims of last month's volcanic eruption in the Congo.
"What they need right now is water," Chukwuemeka Obiajunwa, executive director of Africa We Care, an Edmonton-based non-profit society told the WCR.
And Obiajunwa plans to provide the equipment needed to purify water so more than 600,000 Congolese in Goma can meet their urgent need for potable water.
"People can go without food for some days, but they can't last without water, especially in that part of the world where a water source is scarce," said the Nigeria-born member of Good Shepherd Parish.
The major source of water for most people in Goma is Lake Kivu. Even before the volcano eruption, water in Lake Kivu was contaminated by methane that comes from the bottom of the lake.
After the eruption of Mount Nyiragongo, Jan 17, the lake became even more contaminated because of lava flow. However, people are left with no other reliable source but this lake.
For the water to be drinkable, it has to go through a process of purification. But even before purifying the water, it has to be pumped from the lake and that process requires electric generators.
Africa We Care is now raising funds to buy the water pumps and purifiers and electrical generators so urgently needed in Goma.
But this group currently does not have the financial resources to purchase the equipment.
"We are appealing to the people of Edmonton, of Alberta and Canada - they are very, very generous - to help us help these people," Obiajunwa said.
At present, Congolese rely on water supplied from neighbouring Rwanda and Burundi. But the supply is not only difficult to transport but getting in short supply as well.
Obiajunwa's interest in helping the people in the region does not only come from the fact that he was born in Nigeria.
Working as an international trade broker, Obiajunwa encountered the grim realities of people's suffering while doing business in East Africa in 1998.
Not only that people were malnourished and lacking education, most lacked basic clothing.
"I saw children and adults naked, not because it was very hot in Rwanda but because they don't have clothes to wear," Obiajunwa said.
Pictures of malnourished naked children never left his mind and seemed to haunt him to do something about it.
"I heard the message of Christ in the Gospel to clothe the naked," Obiajunwa said.
Obianjunwa, who is a lector at Good Shepherd, approached the then pastor, Father Len Gartner, and shared what he saw and what he planned to do.
Gartner agreed and helped Obiajunwa appeal to the people from the parish to donate clothing to send to East Africa.
In 1999, donations started to accumulate that forced Obiajunwa to seek a warehouse to stock the goods. Africa We Care was not yet formed as a non-profit group.
With the help of some friends from his parish and other Christian churches, he was able to form Africa We Care.
The group then identified the Great Lake Region, bounded by Congo, Burundi and Rwanda, as its target area. This region is surrounded by mountains and rain forest vegetation and has abundant natural resources and rich soil.
But like other regions in Africa, the abundant natural resources are more curse than blessing. Instead of being rich the people have been infested by war, malnutrition, disease and death while accommodation of refugees became the principal activity in the region.
Africa We Care was planning to send shipments of clothes to the region when Mount Nyiragongo erupted.
The eruption shifted their focus to address the more pressing needs.
"This tragedy in Goma has presented a time for action now," Obiajunwa said.
The society has been preparing to bring some relief goods for the people in the region for close to two years now, but the situation in Goma has slightly changed their plan. Clothing the naked is still on the agenda but giving water to the thirsty has become more urgent.
Shipping the needed equipment to Goma will take 6 to 8 weeks. With the condition of the people in the area, the society has a small time frame and very limited financial resources.
For more information and for those interested in donating, call 486-5552 or 486-9662.