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Water challenge at Nigerian Hospital

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By GEORGE ROBERTSON, M.D.

When we first went to Nigeria in 1978, the living quarters at the hospital had no underground water pipe system. Water to the homes had to be brought by buckets to a holding tank outside our house. It was then brought into the house through the tap, sand particles and all, into the lavatories, bathtubs and sink. The water had to either be filtered or boiled (a slow process) before it could be used for cooking. The only way to get a hot tub bath was to put a kettle on the stove and pour it into your bath water, not a very good system.

Now we do have an underground system at the Nigerian Christian Hospital. This is good because most of the time you can wash up for surgery under running water. Previously there were tanks beside the sink where water was poured onto your hands.

The water system at the house has low pressure which means that if the commode is flushed you may suddenly lose the shower water. The water is still filtered before drinking or use for cooking.

On our last visit, our American friend Don Thompson, from Nashville, was in the process of having the local people build a 10-foot high, 1,000-liter water holding tank. This, he said, would increase the pressure and allow for dependable hot water. Near to the last day of the visit when we were celebrating the new pressure system that would provide a dependable pressure to be able to activate the hot water tank system, Dr. Robert C. Bone was in the bathroom freshening up from the day’s work when he heard a tremendous booming noise. When we went outside, there on the ground lay all of our hopes for a dependable water supply. The tower was nearly full and crashed to the ground because of poor engineering, the metal poles holding up the 2,000-pound tank collapsed like a crumpled paper wad.

Maybe next time they will calculate the size of the iron poles needed to hold such a great load of our precious water.

Editor’s Note: Robertson is a physician with Family Medical Associates, PC, in Lebanon.

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