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Shallow Wells for Clean Water in Africa
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"And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward."

Marion Medical Mission
Shallow Well Program

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A contaminated traditional water hole.

Many of the health problems throughout the underdeveloped world are water-related. This is especially true in the rural areas of Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia,  Africa where the people suffer from dysentery and other water-borne diseases. Most of the villages depend on surface water collected from open ponds and water holes similar to the one pictured here.

The Synod of Livingstonia, Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP), has a goal of making safe water available to everyone - even those in the most remote areas of Malawi. In 1990, missionary Jim McGill approached Marion Medical Mission with a way to provide safe water to villages using shallow wells that are sealed against surface pollution. The first year, we installed 13 wells.  Since then the number has increased to the point that we have installed over 24,000 wells by 2014.  These wells provide well over 2,000,000 people with safe water.

Year No.  of Wells
  Year No. of Wells
1990 13   2003 545
1991 36   2004 733
1992 36   2005 979
1993 21   2006 1093
1994 41   2007 1456
1995 41   2008 1708
1996 56   2009 2071
1997 115   2010 2640
1998 348   2011 2664
1999 350   2012 2754
2000 312   2013 2999
2001 405   2014 2602
2002 537   TOTAL 24,555

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  A village man hard at work digging a well.


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Everybody participates!! The picture above shows children helping to carry pump parts to the well.

While we started with the CCAP Synod of Livingstonia, we now also partner with the CCAP Synod of Nkhoma in Malawi and the CCAP Synod of Zambia in Zambia and with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania (ELCT).

It costs approximately $400 to install a shallow well. That only comes to a little over one dollar per day for a year! This is because the wells are built in cooperation with the villagers. The wells are self-help projects.  Marion Medical Mission only provides what they cannot; the pipe, the pump,  the concrete and some trained labor. The villagers make the brick and supply much of the labor. Each village signs a contract agreeing to pay an annual maintenance fee so spare parts are available.

The shallow wells are located approximately one-half mile from the village, close to the location of the old water source. When completed, each well provides from 100 to 300 people with safe drinking water.

Marion Medical Mission receives thank you notes from village Head Men for their new shallow well. Our favorite one said: "We didn't think we would have anything this nice in our lifetime."

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A maintenance man assembles a pump.

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Top of a well - "GLORY TO GOD"

Inscribed on the concrete top slab of every well Marion Medical Mission installs is "Glory Be To God" in both English and in the local language. In Chitumbuka, this is "Uchindami Kwa Chiuta".  After the pump is installed but before the well is turned over to the village, a dedication ceremony is held, with a prayer being offered by one of the villagers, thanking God for the well and asking Him to bless the village and the new well.

After the prayer a shallow well maintenance team member demonstrates how the pump works. The villagers and the shallow well committee are reminded of their agreement to pay the annual maintenance fee equal to about $5 to $10   so that spare parts are available to repair the well if it breaks. They are also told how to contact their maintenance person if they have trouble with the well.

They are told that if their well breaks, they are to contact the maintenance person who will come and repair the well.  If the well is repaired quickly, they should give the maintenance person a gift for his effort, such as a chicken, since he is a volunteer and does not otherwise get paid for the work.

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Praying to begin the dedication of a well.

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Celebrating the completion of a well.



This is miraculous. This is special. Not only do these wells provide safe water, but the cases of bloody dysentery have dropped dramatically. These wells represent real development; development that is sustained by the villages. Each village has the responsibility of providing and maintaining the safe drinking water it needs.

In addition, the shallow well maintenance team now manufactures pumps at the Embangweni Hospital. In a letter to Marion Medical Mission on April 27, 1996, Mr. Soko, head of the shallow well maintenance team, said "We are No. 1 in the country of Malawi on pump manufacturing, well building and pump installing, so this is something very great! This has made me feel so happy. Please let everybody know about this. We are number 1 in supplying good water to the people!"

Presbyterian Missionary Judy Jewett, the former Acting Administrator of Embangweni Hospital, is enthusiastic about the benefits of the shallow well program. She reported, "It's wonderful! Wherever the wells are installed, we at the Hospital see a one-hundred percent drop in children with dysentery. Safe water virtually eliminates that health threat."