To herald the start of INDABA, one of the largest tourism marketing events in the African calendar, Fiona Jeffery OBE - Industry Relations Director, African Travel and Tourism Association - highlights the achievements in Africa of the international water aid charity she established in 1998, Just a Drop.

Just a Drop was set up to support the millions of women and children in sub-Saharan Africa and beyond who carry out the back-breaking and all-consuming task of finding and fetching water for their families. Every day, they spend hours trying to provide this basic life necessity – often walking up to 6km to find it. What’s more, many women are still expected to walk miles to collect water on the day they go into labor.

The water they collect is often contaminated. It can kill, too. In fact, every twenty seconds, a child dies from a water related disease.

Fiona says: “These shocking facts are just one of the reasons I set up Just a Drop. I had also become a mother and I felt a deep-seated desire to encourage the Travel and Tourism industry through their businesses to give back to communities across the world. I hope that during INDABA, I can create more awareness of the plight of so many in the face of the water and sanitation crisis across parts of Africa and what Just a Drop is trying to do to alleviate this.”

Just a Drop provides clean drinking water and sanitation facilities to some of the poorest communities around the world through the construction of wells, boreholes, pipelines, hand pumps, sand dams, rainwater harvesting systems and latrines, as well as hygiene and sanitation programs.

Over 70% of the charity’s funding supports countries in Africa and to date, work has been carried out in Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Niger, Senegal, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. To date, we have improved the lives of approximately 535,938 across the continent by providing clean water and sanitation to those most in need.

Just a Drop’s accomplishments in Africa are due in large part to the generosity of corporate donors such as Corinthia Hotels, which has supported a total of five Just a Drop projects in Africa. These projects have brought life changing clean water to a total of 45,325 children and families over the past three years.

Alfred Pisani, Founder and Group Chairman, Corinthia Hotels, said: “Most of us take it for granted that we have clean water, but for these villagers, this very basic part of life is a struggle. Corinthia Hotels looks forward to continuing to make a positive contribution, village by village, to the health and well-being of these children and their families, hopefully leading to brighter futures.”

Today, Just a Drop’s work in Africa focuses on Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. Last year alone, we completed 27 projects in these countries, reaching approximately 78,000 people.

Six of those projects were carried out in the semi-arid region of Makueni County, Kenya, south of Nairobi, helping communities to transform their environment by improving the availability of safe water supplies through building sand dams and rainwater harvesting tanks, as well as establishing tree nurseries and opportunities for planting crops.

47-year-old Merry Makau, a mother of nine from Makueni County, explains the changes she has been able to make to her life thanks in part to the new sand dam which she helped to build together with her community Self Help Group.

“We have never had a lot of water in the river; searching and collecting water took most of our time, meaning we would do nothing else for the rest of the day. We also shared the river with the primary school pupils so often the pupils would get late back to school. I felt bad for them since that meant that they had to miss their lessons.

Everyone was motivated to help with the dam construction and it took us eight days to complete. Now water is in plentiful supply and my home is just a 10 minutes’ walk to the river. I have enough time to take care of my children and also my farm. I water my banana trees and I am planning to venture into vegetable farming. I see a bright future with this water in this dam. It’s a complete life changer!”