WATER IS LIFE
By GERVAIS DJOUWE
Brand Manager SOFT DRINKS AND
“Water is life” seems appropriate in the Cameroonian context despite our shallow understanding of this precept at times. In March 2020, Cameroon diagnosed its first COVID-19 cases and according to the World Health Organization (WHO) water and soap constitute part of the methods used to limit the spread of this virus. Water being a gift of nature, is consequently expected to be accessible / available to all, as it is “indispensable to the human body”. Yet for most people living in the economic capital of Cameroon, access to water is still a daily struggle. 56.2% of Cameroonians are average income earners, mostly strugglers who live on daily retail earnings. Cameroon’s GDP was meant to experience a negative shift from 3.7% in 2019 to -1.2 % (IMF 14th pril 2020 report), thereby intensifying the existing pressure on disposable income. Almost naturally and unintentionally, the masses tend to expect more from the government and economic operators during crises.
Amongst all preventive measures listed by the WHO to curb the spread of the COVID-19, the use of running water seems to top the list. UCB, a national brewery, known for its patriotic stand and efficient approach in addressing the concerns of public interest took this challenge to heart. Validated by the strategic department of UCB, we launched a massive water distribution program since April 2020, a period when all Cameroonians were expected to spend more time at home while the scientists tried to figure out how to get the world out of the pandemic.
As unrealistic as it may sound for those who see the city of Douala from the limit of their lenses, the touch down testimonies were many. Bad roads, limited water supply, poor living conditions & juvenile delinquent persons were some of the challenges encountered in neighborhoods like Logmayangui, Ndongpassi3, Bobongo, Soboum, EntréeBille, Bilongue, Brazaville, Oyack, Ange Raphael, Bonangang, Missoke, Beedi, Kotto, Logbaba, Bepanda, Ngwele, Mabanda, Mother Theresa, Ndobo, Carefour chico, Washington, Grand Baobab; just to name a few. Our arrival was always welcomed with huge acclamations of joy and relief, garnished by such words; “Well done UCB” “GOD will bless you people” « Très belle initiative, l’eau c’est la vie » “This is a very big action by UCB” “Papa Kadji is not dead, he lives on” “UCB is always thinking about the masses”. Our teams had to visit a minimum of 2-3 neighborhoods daily; 6 days a week to enable us to reach out to as many persons as possible. Between 7am-6pm our teams were stationed in pre-reserved sites as instructed by the quarter heads, who took care of our security and also assigned a youth from his territory to assist with the exercise. Queuing, respecting social distancing, the use of face masks by all on site and managing temperaments throughout the scotching heat and rain droplets till dusk were daily moments.
Distributing water in these neighborhoods ignited some level of sociological and physical bravery necessary to closely interact with persons who had buried relatives and friends diagnosed with the virus when it was all but a scary myth to most. The energy demonstrated both by the back and front stage crews, enabled us to reach out to over 366, 574 persons, thus having distributed 94.380 HL of Madiba mineral water, and having visited 174 quarters, 468 visits for an estimated cost of 4.500. 000 FRS in 2020 only. The distribution continues, with new areas now involved.
Some may consider this as a mere act of publicity but for the warm reception of the inhabitants, phone calls from other quarter heads requesting similar gestures for their neighbourhoods, are heartwarming for the initiators and all the actors of this fight. The fight continues as the water trucks are still on the ground until this day, supplying the precious liquid to populations.