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Life Healthcare helps to deliver clean running water

Roughly 3% of South African households lack access to clean running water. PlayPumps and the power of play creatively tackle this problem.

True to its purpose of ‘making life better’, Life Healthcare has invested in PlayPumps to deliver clean running water to nine disadvantaged communities, and more are planned in 2022.

Access to clean water is critical for good health

Statistics South Africa reports that 3.1% of households still had to fetch water from rivers, streams, stagnant water pools, dams, wells and springs in 2019. These households are particularly vulnerable to waterborne conditions such as diarrhoeal diseases.

Worryingly, the World Health Organization states that diarrhoea is the second leading cause of death and the leading cause of malnutrition in children under five. It adds that access to clean water is critical to preventing these diseases.

‘As a Group, we believe we have a moral and business obligation to contribute positively to the communities in which we operate. Access to running water is a desperate need in many peri-urban and rural communities, so we are very passionate about this project,’ says Ansuyiah Padayachee, Life Healthcare Community and External Affairs Manager.

The company previously sponsored 10 PlayPumps across South Africa, but the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the urgency of water access for all. Therefore, the Group decided to sponsor a further nine PlayPumps in 2021. The programme continues in 2022, with further PlayPumps planned to be installed in other communities.

How PlayPumps work

PlayPumps creatively tackle the challenge of supplying clean running water to isolated communities. They feature roundabouts – often the only play equipment in these communities. As children play on the structure, the spinning motion pumps water from a borehole into a water tower, linked to a tap.

Before installing a PlayPump, chemical and bacteriological testing ensures the borehole water is safe to drink. A geohydrologist scientifically investigates and evaluates the underground water resources and confirms the water is safe, and a sustainable supply is available.

Roundabout Water Solutions, the non-profit organisation behind PlayPumps, highlights the following benefits of its programme:

  • Access to clean drinking water reduces the incidence of waterborne diseases and related mortality rates.
  • PlayPumps are usually installed at primary schools. This has proven to improve school attendance, as children come to school for water. Girls especially benefit in this way, as they are traditionally tasked with fetching water, often walking long distances daily.
  • Billboards around the water tower provide revenue for maintenance. Two sides are for consumer advertising and two for educational or public-health messages.
  • Routine maintenance checks at no cost to the communities help to sustain these projects.

1,500 lives – and counting – made better

In 2021, Life Healthcare-sponsored PlayPumps have been installed in three villages in Pondoland, in the Eastern Cape. They are at Mantekyu, Ndengane and Rhole. Each community has roughly 500 residents, who are mostly women, children and pensioners. Unemployment is at 98% and subsistence farming is the norm.

Life Healthcare has also allocated funding for a new community centre in Mantekyu, and the reopening of its preschool. Plans are underway to convert the community centre into a medical clinic on certain days, as the nearest clinic is approximately 25km away. 

Six more PlayPumps sponsored by the Life Healthcare Group were installed in KwaZulu-Natal in October 2021 in the following locations: Bergville, Vryheid, Newcastle, Ladysmith, Tugela Ferry and Nongoma.

Further installations are planned in 2022.