May 15, 2014

Cornell Student Campaigns for Accessible Water in Cameroon

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Franck Onambélé ’14 hopes to achieve one goal by the summer: Ensure that the people of his hometown in Cameroon have safe and consistent access to clean water.

Currently, the 2,000 residents of Oyak, Cameroon depend on two unreliable sources of water to survive — a nearby river and a small community pump, according to Onambélé.

Onambélé — who lived in Oyak until he moved to Canada in 2005 — said the river provides water for bathing, laundry and dishes, while the small pump sporadically provides drinking water. Neither source, he added, is safe to rely on, and families often need to ration three or four gallons of water for over a week.

“The average person walks at least three miles to fetch water,” he said. “The water from the river is not safe, and they don’t even drink it. They have a pump in the community, and it is always on, because you don’t know when the water comes. It’s first-come, first-serve. …They drink with reserve, because they’re not sure when the water will come again.”

Residents of Oyak, Cameroon gather around the single source of drinkable water. Courtesy of Franck Onambélé