Water4Life is a multidisciplinary project led by Engineers Without Borders Malaysia and University of Nottingham Malaysia. The aim of the project is to improve the standard of living of the Penan community in Long Itam, Sarawak, Borneo Malaysia through engineering, education and the provision of basic healthcare.



The Penans are amongst the last nomadic hunter-gatherer tribe living in the tropical rainforest of Borneo. There are around 16,000 Penans living in Malaysia, many have settled or semi-settled.

Due to growing deforestation activities in the region, the livelihoods of the Penan communities are increasingly being threatened. Amongst problems they face as a result of these activities include the loss of clean water, food scarcity and destruction of habitats.

Water4Life aimed to enhance the quality of lives of  over 200 Penans in Kampung Long Itam, Baram, Sarawak.



In the case of the Penans of Long Itam, many of the Penans suffered from water, sanitation and hygiene-related diseases such as diarrhoea, infectious skin and eye diseases and Malaria, contracted from the nearby contaminated river water source.

Besides the contamination of the river water source, logging activities in the surrounding areas of the village had also caused the depletion of Penan’s traditional staple food source (deer and wild boar) and the once abundant trees and plants species for medicinal purposes. Many Penans had since resorted to poor diets consisting of cheap, unhealthy processed food, which was extremely likely the cause of malnutrition amongst some of the villagers.

How did we solve the problem?


Water System

The water was first tested to ensure heavy metal contamination is within safety limits.

The water system designed consisted of 3 main parts: the dam, the delivery pipeline (dam to village) and distribution pipeline (within village).

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We built two new toilet facilities in the new preschool and carried out minor repair and renovations. We also built a small library for the preschool and provided books and other learning materials.



We conducted classes for the children to educate them on simple basic hygiene such as the proper method to clean their teeth, wash their hands and also the removal of head lice.

We talked to the community in the village about waste management and the importance of water conservation.



Our medical team trained the health officers in the village on treatments for minor ailments and provided them with adequate supply of over the counter medicines.

Basic medical screening (blood pressure and blood sugar level) was also provided.


Check out the video below for more info!