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Pumping safe water is child's play

Children using the special seesaw to pump safe water for their school while they play.Photo courtesy of Plan staff.
Children using the special seesaw to pump safe water for their school while they play.

Photo courtesy of Plan staff.
April 5, 2010

Every day at lunchtime, children from South Garpara Primary School in Bangladesh pump 1,000 liters of safe drinking water from the ground to a tank on the roof of their school.

For these children, it is not hard labor but lots of fun. The children use a pump installed by Plan known as a play pump that operates as a seesaw. When the children start playing on it, the seesaw arms pump safe water from underground to a distribution system that delivers fresh water to the school toilets and a drinking water fountain.

Disease threat

A recent school and household survey by Plan has revealed that 50% of schools in 49 Bangladesh municipalities do not have safe drinking water, sanitized water for toilets or clean hand-washing facilities.

As a result, many students, especially girls, drop out of school. Those that stay in school run the risk of getting diarrhea and other waterborne diseases. According to the World Health Organization and UNICEF, diarrhea kills 1,500,000 children worldwide each year - more young children than AIDS, malaria and measles combined.

Boosting attendance rates

Before the installation of the play pump, the primary school had a ‘No. 6 hand pump’ that was too big for the children to operate, and their playground had no play equipment. Since it has been installed, attendance rates at the school have improved dramatically.

“The play pump has responded to children’s rights to a quality education and good health, whilst providing a lot of fun,” said Plan Bangladesh Country Director Ned Espey.

“About 150 students have access to clean water and toilets throughout the school year. Now the empty chairs in the classrooms are filled with energetic, happy students who have discovered the importance of sanitation and hygiene.”

Learn more about Plan's water and sanitation programs.