Water for Life in Pakistan
“Clean and safe drinking water ensures a healthy lifestyle, and if water is not available then hygiene problems occur,” says Abbas Khan, an environmental health officer with the International Rescue Committee.
Elixir of Life
Last year’s earthquake caused huge problems in Danna after it destroyed or badly damaged existing water systems in the area—systems that piped water from hillside springs to local communities. The IRC has been working with communities, district government and the public heath engineering department to rehabilitate these systems. It also created five new systems, including one in Atyasa.
“Five large water tanks and 24 taps have been installed by IRC to help the 58 households in this village,” says Abbas. “These systems are called gravity-flow systems, because the water naturally flows through the pipes and there is no need for a pump. Now the villagers are getting spring water, and they enjoy unlimited access to it very close to their homes.”
Villager Muhammed Riaz says the new taps make a huge difference to daily life. “Before this system, women like my sisters used to fetch water from far off areas using jerry cans which they carried on their heads. They had to make this journey ten to 12 times a day.” Riaz, expressing gratitude to IRC for its help, adds that his sisters now use their spare time to learn embroidery from their mother and perform other household tasks.
A Shining Example
Riaz himself is one of the IRC’s hygiene promoters, whose task it is to identify vulnerable people and raise awareness about sanitation. This young man has a lot on his shoulders. His father died in the earthquake along with his younger brother.
“With my father gone and no shelter and water available for my family, it became important for me to find employment,” says Riaz. “But my work at the IRC is also good because I can try to help change my village for the better. I spread awareness about how if we live clean, we can prevent diseases, and I think it’s working. For example, people now burn their waste, rather than letting it lie around.”
By keeping themselves neat and tidy, hygiene promoters like Riaz, are role models for the community. He explains: “I don’t just tell people what to do, I try and lead by example. I don’t just say, ‘Cut your nails,’ I make sure mine are cut and explain why that’s good.”
Good, Clean Fun
IRC staff and hygiene promoters also encourage schoolchildren and youngsters at its child friendly spaces to adopt good habits at home. The children draw pictures and sing songs about brushing their teeth and keeping clean.
“Children are most vulnerable to diseases caused by unhygienic conditions, with diarrhea the most common one,” says IRC environmental health manager Malik Asif. “But now with running water near them, they find it pleasing playing and taking a bath in it with the other kids.”
The IRC has constructed five new water supply systems in the Danna and Kacheeli areas, bringing water to almost 19,500 people. A team of 20 local promoters are working to raise awareness among these communities about the important of good hygiene.