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School-yard roundabouts pump water while children play

[Swaziland] The 'Play pump' in the Lubilini primary school.

Although just nine years old, Dominga Lorenz has a laundry list of household chores that include caring for her little sister and four younger cousins.

When she finishes school she has to clean their one-roomed reed home, sweep the yard, fetch water and wash the dishes. Her mother has a full-day job as a domestic worker.

Fetching water fives times a day is the hardest of all her chores. Although the well is nearby and her aunt helps her, drawing the water is arduous for the slightly built Dominga. "It is so far down, it hurts my muscles - I am frightened I am going to fall in," she told IRIN.

But now a brightly coloured roundabout in the dirt playground at school has made all the difference - transforming the work of pumping water into fun.

As children spin the merry-go-round in play, they pump borehole water into a 2,500 litre tank for use by the school and surrounding communities.

"It has made a huge difference," said Intaca Primary school school director Xavier Gumane. "Before, the children had to interrupt their schooling to fetch water, and it was never enough. But now, the children love playing on the roundabout - we even have to make sure they don't play on it and miss their lessons, they like it so much!"

Some 40,000 Mozambican school children will benefit from the "Play Pumps", an initiative launched this month by the World Food Programme (WFP), the Dutch logistics company TNT, and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

The project is part of the 'Flourishing School' programme, which aims to provide potable water and sanitation to 60 rural schools. In the first phase, 30 play pumps will be installed in schools in Mozambique's southern provinces of Maputo, Gaza and Inhambane. In addition, 30 conventional hand pumps will be installed in Manica and Sofala provinces. The roundabouts have already proved highly successful in rural schools in neighbouring South Africa and Swaziland.

"Access to safe water and sanitation facilities is a crucial factor for keeping children in school and helping them to learn in a healthy environment," said UNICEF representative Leila Pakkala.

WFP and its corporate partner, TNT, have agreed to drill the boreholes, while UNICEF is installing sanitation facilities and providing hygiene training. The play pumps were developed by Roundabout, a South African company, and are partly paid for by the World Bank.

Official figures show that only 36 percent of the population in urban areas and 40 percent in rural areas have access to safe water, and diarrhoeal diseases remain one of Mozambique's main child killers.

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