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They’re expert hunters. Nimble climbers. They sharpen their teeth for beauty and fit entire families into small domed huts. This September is about bringing clean drinking water to an unknown people living in a forgotten country: the Bayaka of Central African Republic. A typical Bayaka mother has eight children -- and sees four of them die prematurely from waterborne disease or malnutrition. Clean drinking water will change this forever. This is a story of transformation.

- photos by Esther Havens, Stan Patyrak and Scott Harrison
Jasmine shows the water she used to drink in Bomanzoko village.
A Bayaka boy gathers water from a contaminated stream near his home.

When you ask them "What is your age?" or "Ngu tti mo ayeke ok," in the local language Sango, the Bayaka usually can't answer. The more appropriate question is, "How many children do you have?"
A Bayaka woman and her son near her home.
A classroom of children at the Ecole Mambera Nola School.
Bayaka women walk with jugs of contaminated water from a stream near their homes.
The Bayaka are denied use of water from any existing water projects in villages. Since they have to wait until dark to collect clean water, they often resort to using contaminated ponds and streams instead.
People wait in line to collect water.
Carol drinks from a contaminated pond used by many Bayaka.
A Bayaka boy cheers near a well.
A Bayaka boy shows the caterpillars his village collects to eat.
"They're finding new diseases they've never dealt with. And now, they can't use the remedies they used to find in the forest."
Bayaka children get "jiggers" -- parasites that eat away at their feet. These can usually be washed away with clean water,
but about 16,000 Bayaka don't have safe water in C.A.R.
A Bayaka woman squeezes ticks out of the hair of a man.
Bayaka men cut down a tree in the forest.
Home for a Bayaka in Kanza village.
"The Bayaka are expert hunters. They know the forest. To hike in the woods with the Bayaka is really a privilege."
Children look on as an ICDI worker runs a drill rig in Maka village.
Bayaka children wash their hands at a charity: water well.
A Bayaka boy pumps water in Yandoumbe village. The well here serves about 450 people.
The Bayaka sharpen their teeth, which represent beauty to them.
A Bayaka girl in Bomandjokou village.
Bayaka children outside the Bomandjokou school.
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